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Parshas Tazria/Metzora - Learn from the Source             5 Iyar 5778

04/20/2018 12:01:19 PM

Apr20

Every week as I sit down to write a weekly message I scour my library searching for words of Torah that reflect some incident or situation that occurs. Baruch Hashem I have a decent library with many resources to pull from, but nevertheless a challenge. When we walk into a room full of seforim, holy books we are usually on our feet already and there is no need to ‘stand up’ for the Torah that is in the room. This contrasts with when we are sitting in a Shul or Beis Medrash and the Torah scroll is moving around we need to rise for the honor of the Torah. Not only do we stand when the actual Torah scroll is moved but when a Torah sage and scholar enter a room we stand, for they are considered a walking Torah scroll.

This week I had the Zechus/merit to host a Torah giant in the Jewish world. He is Bli Ayin Hara a man in his nineties who arrived at my house at 11:30pm after finishing some business that took over four hours. He left his home at 6:00am to catch a flight to San Diego, mind you he lives in the southeast portion of the U.S. After a brief bowl of cereal, I shared a dvar Torah from a new sefer that I have and within minutes of reviewing a piece on this week’s parsha he came back with some critiques and additions then gave his own understanding of this Mitzva of the Torah. Before I share his insight, the scenario in my home reminded me of a Mishna in Pirkei Avos. It was only last Shabbos that we began this summertime limmud and in the very first chapter Pirkei Avos 1:4 it mentions the following. Yossi Ben Yo'ezer from Tzreida and Yossi Ben Yochanon from Jerusalem received the tradition from them. Yossi Ben Yo'ezer from Tzreida said: "Let your home be a gathering place for scholars, get dusty (wrestle) in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words with thirst." Here I was literally waiting on this great Rov and basking in his light and breath of Torah. A walking sefer Torah knows no age, time or place, the words of Torah are on his fingertips and spew forth like a fountain.

 In the second of this week’s Parshios, Metzora outlines the way to purify one self and possessions that were afflicted with Tzoraas, which I define as a spiritual leprosy (not to be confused with the medical definition of leprosy). In Vayikra 14:2 the Torah states: “Zos T’hiyeh Toras HaMetzora B’Yom Taharaso, V’Huva El HaKohain”. “This is the law concerning the leper when he is purified, and he shall be brought and placed under the jurisdiction of the priest”. Rav Nata Greenblatt YBL”C asks “once a person knows he has Tzoraas wouldn’t you think he would run to the Kohain, why does the Torah need to say, and he was ‘brought’ to the Kohain? At the outset the person sees some type of affliction or discoloration on his body. The process of purification first begins with identifying if the skin condition is in fact tzoraas, if it is leprosy the kohain will deem him a leper on the spot. If the kohain is not sure, then he will quarantine the person for a week and check again after seven days and repeat the process. Rav Nata Greenblatt explains the mindset of the leper.  In the beginning the person doesn’t think anything of his skin condition and does not consider the connection between his neshama/soul and his guf/body, meaning he might have committed one of the sins that bring about leprosy. After he realizes that this skin condition appears to perhaps be leprosy he gets concerned and knows that only a Kohain can decide if it is or not.   At that point a person begins to think maybe I did violate a mitzva that the punishment is Tzoraas and starts to do Teshuva, to repent. Unfortunately, he starts to doubt himself if he did something wrong, he is not sure if he is doing a proper repentance (not knowing if it is Tzoraas or not) and is afraid to even approach the Kohain. Therefore, the Torah demands that ‘he be brought’ to the kohain almost against his will. This is symptomatic of a person doubting their ability to succeed and rather than try they choose to fail. Perhaps they did do something wrong but are unsure how to go about correcting their situation. If they don’t move forward and be encouraged to work on improving and moving forward, then they risk falling further from where they began.

After reviewing the dvar Torah on Tazria for ninety seconds Rav Nata recalled the words of the Rambam as if he saw it yesterday. He quoted a piece that is out of character for Maimonidies. He writes in mussar fashion within the Mishna Torah which deals exclusively with Halacha, Jewish law. In Sefer Tahara at the end of the laws of Tumas Tzoraas 16:10 Maimonidies lays into the root cause of how a person gets to the point of speaking loshon hara. “Tzoraas is the name of a condition that includes many areas that are dissimilar to one another. Tzoraas shows up in different places and on different parts of the body depending on what the sin was. All the signs and indications of Tzoraas was a bewilderment and a wonder that was above nature, something inexplicable. If he remained steadfast in his wickedness then he began to lose everything, his house would be torn down, utensils destroyed, and clothing burned. If he repented fully at any point it would all stop, and life would resume to normal. If he still did not repent, then he will be separated and isolated from the congregation so that he will no longer be able to speak evil against anyone”. How did this all begin? Rambam continues “because he did not remember what happened to Miriam when we were on the way leaving Mitzrayim. She spoke against her brother Moshe who she was older than, and who raised him and put herself in danger to save her younger brother Moshe. She, Miriam did not necessarily speak bad against Moshe but rather just equated him to all the other prophets, and even though Moshe let it pass because he was the humblest of all men, she was punished! How much more so we the average person would be guilty speaking ill of leaders and great people. A person who scoffs and makes fun of everything will come to make fun of the leaders and even Rabbis”.

 This type of behavior gives a thrill to the speaker and gains support of those around him while talking bad about the leaders of the Jewish people and even of our secular leaders in positions of authority. It is easier in the short run to doubt our own growth in Torah and Mitzvos and throw in the towel and make fun of those who are trying to lift us up. One needs to ‘bring himself’ to the kohain or leader and try to gain from their wisdom and insight and not make fun of them and what they stand for. Bring the Torah into your house, open your homes to Torah sages and scholars and bask in the delight of their Torah. Embrace who they are and what they represent, as this is the way to reverse the destruction of the Jewish homes and to build a true Bayis Neeman B’Yisrael

Parshas Shmini - Repeat that Please!                  28 Nissan 5778

04/13/2018 10:44:52 AM

Apr13

In every area of life there is more, less, and the average. Whether it is a person’s temperament, character traits, weight, height, looks, intelligence, finances, religiosity, etc. - the list goes on - there are always the extremes that make up the mean average of life. Some people do things quickly while others do them slowly. Several years ago I wrote about the law which clearly states that it is not only forbidden to drive above the speed limit; it is also forbidden to drive too slowly. There is one additional area I would like to critique concerning those who find themselves doing the wrong way, despite being asked not to do so.

There are some individuals who speak very quickly, so quickly that the listener cannot understand what the person is saying. There are differing opinions as to why some people speak quickly, including their ability to visualize the words in their minds - a condition known as ‘cluttering’. Two examples come to mind: one in a religious context, the other regarding our every day lives. On days when the Torah is read (particularly on Mondays and Thursdays) there is a custom to make a ‘Mi Shebeirach,’ a prayer for the sick. After a list of names is mentioned, some attendees will mention a name that is not on the list. They orally say the name to the gabbai. Typically, the person rattles off the name of the ill person, and his/her mother’s name along with it, at lightning speed. I remind you that the gabbai may never have heard this name before and is unable to catch the name not once or twice but sometimes even three times to fully grasp the name being called out. If the person would only say the name slowly the very first time, (which is what happens anyway by the third or fourth repetition) it would save people time, effort, and sometimes embarrassment. The person must realize the gabbai never heard this name and must repeat it verbatim so just slow down when giving over a name. The second scenario is leaving a phone number on a voice mail or answering machine. I can not tell you how many times I need to rewind the message over again to catch a phone number that someone left for me to call them back. It some cases it can take me nine times, repeatedly listening to the message because it was given so quickly that I can only catch and record one digit at a time. There is even a rare time that I just give up because it is impossible to decipher what the number is. Some recorded messages give specific instructions to avoid this issue by stating, “Please speak slowly and repeat the number.” Occasionally this may actually work – but unfortunately, not too often.

One should think about these and other situations when you are asking the other person to do something for you. Simply say it slowly. You are either asking them to return the call or mention a name for a speedy recovery and you are making it so much more difficult for them to do what is asked by speaking too quickly for the listener to understand your request. When someone speaks quickly, and the listener it is unable to accurately hear what you’re saying, the listener it placed in the awkward position of asking the speaker to repeat themselves or to say, “What?” sometimes over and over again. The onus should be on the speaker not the listener to convey a message or a thought properly.

We might all agree that the responsibility of clarity is on the speaker, but it doesn’t always happen. We don’t and can’t control the way a person speaks, and therefore we need to prepare for the inevitable. We need to take measures to listen more carefully and figure out ways to understand the speaker despite their babble. If the speaker is not going to change the way he/she speaks, then we need to change the way we listen. We find a great lesson in listening from Moshe Rabbeinu. There is a great irony in the person who had some type of speech impediment who consistently recognizes the need to be patient when it comes to listening to what others are saying.

In this week’s parsha Shmini the Torah states in Vayikra 10:20 “Vayishma Moshe, VaYitav B’Einav”. “When Moshe heard this, he approved”. Rashi, on this verse, quotes the Midrash Toras Kohanim that says: Moshe admitted and was not embarrassed and did not use the excuse “I didn’t hear”. The Gemara in Zevachim 101b adds to the language of Rashi that not only did he not say “I didn’t hear that,” but to the contrary said, “I heard it and I forgot it,” which is a greater disgrace than just saying I didn’t hear. The Gemara Chagiga 1:8 in Yerushalmi writes: “I sent you a great person, and what is his greatness? That he was never embarrassed to say I didn’t hear. This means that saying I didn’t hear something is a greater disgrace, therefore, by definition, there is greatness to the person.

The commentary Tzion V’Yerushalayim goes on to elaborate this point. It is one thing to understand that the Rabbis and scholars during the times of the Talmud, who have the written and oral laws before them might be more humiliated to admit, ‘I did not hear that.’ But consider Moshe Rabbeinu, the prize student of the Almighty Himself, who learned one-on-one with Hashem and was the first ever to learn Torah and the first teacher of Torah, who would feel the greatest mortification by admitting, “I heard but I forgot.” It takes a great man to stand up and state the truth despite discomfiture to protect his pride.

The Netzi”v Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin Z”L brings down a midrash that Moshe made a public announcement stating, “I, Moshe, made a mistake, and Aharon, my brother, came and taught it to me.” Why did Moshe do that? Moshe wanted to teach klal Yisrael this Midda, character trait of admitting a mistake. He taught the people that there is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake, and even he, Moshe Rabbeinu, was capable of making a mistake. By admitting a mistake, we come to correct the falsehood and bring truth to the surface. In addition, by admitting a mistake, we admit that we, too, are human and are able to learn and grow from our errors.

Therefore, we see the importance of listening with care so as to hear things properly. The utmost honor is given to someone who can recognize and admit his mistake and not hide behind some other excuse. Listen, pay close attention to the few short words Moshe said so openly and clearly. Ultimately, this admission will be viewed with goodness in Hashem’s eyes as well.

Pesach - Chumros on the Outside & Leniencies on the Inside            13 Nissan 5778

03/29/2018 12:04:04 PM

Mar29

Throughout my Rabbinic career I have received more requests for leniency in areas of Halacha - Jewish law as compared to asking when and if it is appropriate to be Machmir/strict in Halacha. I am all in favor of using a leniency when appropriate, but we should also recognize the significance of Chumros and the role they play in our lives. It is not right to speak disparagingly about anyone in general, and this is particularly applicable with regard to those who seek out leniencies when necessary or Chumros when desired.

My son-in-law, who does not eat fruits or vegetables, has quite a challenge on Seder night when it comes to the Mitzva of marror. Since he does not eat romaine lettuce, his other option for marror is ground up horseradish root. For the Mitzva of marror, he takes a fully packed three ounces of horseradish, and in two or three heaping spoons swallows the bitter herbs, sending shock waves throughout his body as he turns red. Here is a situation where most people would look for a leniency, but he says that if people are looking for Chumros to appear more observant, let them start with this one. It’s always easy to be strict for others and on things that are not critical or important. Marror is a biblical Mitzva, therefore a person should be machmir on it!

My Rebbi, Rabbi Wein YB”L, used to tell over a story about Reb Eizel Yitzchok Charif*, a very astute and sharp Torah scholar and sage. His sharpness could only be matched by his wife, who obviously had to be his much-needed match to keep him in line. We are all very familiar and well aware of the prohibition of Chometz on Pesach and the severe punishment to those who violate it. A story is told of a Mrs. Eizel Yitzchok Charif who was extremely Machmir (strict) when it came to Chometz on Pesach. In fact, so much so that she would put mittens on the cat’s paws after Chanukah so that the cat would not track Chometz around the house! One year her husband, the Rabbi, said to his wife, “It is ridiculous to make the cat wear mittens. The Shulchan Aruch provides different mechanisms for us to be Chometz-fee when Pesach arrives. The night before Pesach, on the fourteenth of Nissan, we do bedikas Chometz and check the entire house. In addition to that, if by chance we missed some Chometz during the search, we dobittul (nullification) of Chometz before Pesach. On top of that, if the search does not go well, and my intentions during nullification were lacking, I still sell all the Chometz to a non-Jew.” At this the wife replied to her husband, raising and waving her hand “Ah, Feh, you and your Shulchan Aruch! My father sold me to a Goy years ago!” Chumros are a real thing and should be taken seriously.

Chazal record that during the month of Elul and the ten days of repentance, a person should accept upon himself greater “chumros” – “stringencies” in his observance. Somewhat perplexing, however, is the fact that we do not find any requirement to continue with these observances after the Yomim Nora’im. There is another time of year that the Jewish people collectively rise to a level of Chumros that are not particularly observed during the year. The Rosh 3:2 states: “I did not elaborate on the laws of dough stuck on utensils as the Jewish people are holy will clean them.” The Raavan, quting the Rosh adds, “This custom of scraping down the walls and chairs has a source in the Talmud Yerushalmi.” The Radvaz 1:135 states: “The Jewish people are holy as writes the Rosh, and as we see that they keep extra Chumros, in contrast to other Issurim/prohibitions.” The Mechaber, Rav Yosef Caro in O”C 442:6 states: “Those who are Machmir have upon whom to rely.”.The Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the requirements of the law on Pesach. The Arizal states that on Pesach one should be stringent to follow all the stringencies. Thus, we find in various areas of Halacha, that we are stringent on Pesach to follow a lone opinion, versus the accustomed leniency of the majority approach. The Be’er Hetiv 467:1 says, “Particularly on Pesach we follow all the Chumros.” Mishnas Chassidim says in Nissan 3:4, “One is to be stringent regarding all the stringencies of those who are strict, and this will benefit his soul throughout the year.”

Nevertheless, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. When it comes to Chumros, we accept them and perform them, but they should be done under the following conditions: Hide your Chumros and make sure the chumros are based upon something real. A person should act modestly and keep his Chumros to himself, in his own home, without allowing others to know. When asked a Shaila/question, one would only answer the letter of the law, not basing the answer on a Chumra that one has personally accepted. Ideally, according to Halacha, one is not allowed to be stringent regarding Rabbinical matters more than the stringencies of the Shulchan Aruch, nevertheless, regarding Pesach, the Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the law. Nonetheless, this only applies if the custom has some basis or source. One is not supposed to innovate new Chumros that have no basis in Halacha.

Many Kulos/leniencies and Chumros/stringencies are based upon customs that families, communities and groups of Jews adopted throughout history for many reasons. In some instances the reasons for the custom - and hence the chumra - is known while at other times the only part of the custom that is remembered is the practice but not the reason. Just because the reason may have been forgotten does not justify the cessation of the custom. We, the Jewish people, follow the edict “Minhag Avoseinu B’adenu” - the custom of our fathers is still in our hands. We still follow customs because there may be other reasons that we are for these customs which have not been transmitted to us. We are not aware of the reasons behind the minhag. There is a sefer called Taamei Minhagim - The Reasons of the Customs - which gives hundreds of reasons to certain practices. Another set of seforim are called “Minhag Yisroel Torah” - the Custom of the Jewish People is Law”. The concept of a minhag is like a Din/law. It is a very powerful statement that cannot be discarded.

A Chumra does not have to be viewed as a difficulty. In fact the concept of the “chumra” should be taken on by someone who feels the need and uses this mechanism to get closer to Hashem. Taking on a chumra provides for many the internal feeling that they are holding this strictness to demonstrate to God that we take the Torah seriously and want to take on more when necessary. The Yom Tov of Pesach is full of different customs. Some are lenient and others are strict. As long as we are doing both of them L’Shem Shamayim - for Heaven’s sake, we will all become closer to Hashem and deserve the final redemption in the spirit of the Holy days of Pesach!

Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Zeesin Pesach

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

 

*Rabbi YEHOSHUA ( Eizel Harif "Eizel the sharp") 1801 – 1873, was the son of Yechiel Shapira.
He was born in Glubokie in 1801. His father; Yechiel, who was a deeply learned man, was the grandson of the writer of "Seder Hadorot". Already at an early age Yehoshua showed a great promise for learning. By age eight he could read complex texts. His father took it upon himself to further his son’s education. Soon, the father realized that he had no answers to some of the intricate questions that his son asked, so he enrolled his son in the big Minsk Yeshiva school "Blumka" under the R"M of R' Avraham Dboritzer who was known as a distinct prodigy. They boy grew up in the Yeshiva and became famous as “Eizel the prodigy from Globok. “ He became involved in correspondence, meeting with many Jewish sages of his time in Minsk and in other areas. He was renowned as a genius and received offers from respectful communities to become their rabbi. But his father in law, R’Ytzhak Fein, did not want him to leave his house. Finally, he took a job in the town of Kalvarija.
He became known as Eizel Harif ("sharp") because he was one of the keenest intellects and most outstanding pilpulists of his day. He was av. bet din successively at Kalvarija, Kutno, Tiktin, and, finally, Slonim. He died in 1873. Rabbi Yehoshua’s keen witticism was commonly used even many years after his death.
Bibliography; “Emek Yehoshua” (Warsaw 1842), “Drushim”, “Sfat Hanachal”, “Avi Hanachal” “Noam Yerushalmi’ – four volumes (Vilna 1863- 1866) ‘Ezat Yehoshua” (Vilna 1868) and a few others.
Rabbi Yehovhua was survived by three prominent sons: Rabbi Berush Shapira , the rabbi of Ostrov; Rabbi Moshe Shapira, rabbi in Vilkomir and Riga and his youngest son, Mordechai Shapira, who was politically involved in Jewish causes.

Ah Gut Shabbos 
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Tzav - Read a Book, Learn a Sefer         6 Nissan 5778

03/22/2018 02:18:57 PM

Mar22

Recently, someone shared an article with me which appeared in the March 15, 2018 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Headlined “Learning to Pray When Words Fail”, it addressed a condition called aphasia, the loss of ability to express or understand speech.. The article focused on a couple, Julie and Avi Shulman. Julie Shulman received her undergraduate degree in linguistics from Israel’s Bar- Ilan University in 2000. Following graduation, Mrs Shulman, a native of Maine, headed to Massachusetts, where she earned a master’s degree in speech therapy, fulfilling her goal of wanting to help people suffering from speech disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline, MA. .The Shulmans returned to Israel in 2009,with three young children and promising careers. Two weeks after their return to Israel, Ayal suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Miraculously, his cognitive function was intact, but his speech was limited to sentences of three or four words. Mrs. Shulman explained that ”Disorders such as aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths such as Judaism The underlying principle of our Jewish practices, and involvement in our religion, is the use of speech. Whatever blessing we choose, we express it verbally. The loss of speech is debilitating for family, friends, business, and especially in the way in which we practice our religion. Awareness of the preciousness of the gift of speech should deeply enhance our quality of davening and learning.

Whenever we are called to the Torah, we chant the words out loud. Prayer and Torah study is said out loud, frequently accompanied by melodies and chants which enhance and inspire us as we pray. Men learn Torah by saying the words out loud. This has been a proven method of retention of our studies throughout the millennia.

The power of prayer is the ability to verbalize the words and say them to God. The ‘kavana’, or intent, is in the heart and the mind, but it is the physical formation of the words coming from the mouth that make up the actual prayer. We are not supposed to just read the prayers with our eyes.  We should silently verbalize every word, hearing each of the words being read.. The same is true in learning. It is not sufficient to learn a piece of Torah just by reading it with our eyes. Each word must be said as they are being learned. Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret my words, thinking you cannot learn that way. What I am saying is that the effect, the long-term benefit one has by sounding the words out loud, hearing every word, is immeasurable. I know that people who did not grow up with this idea of praying or learning out loud may have difficulty adjusting to this way of learning. My promise to those of you who fall into this category is that if you try it you will soon see, hear, and appreciate the difference.

In contrast to the Jewish (Orthodox) way of praying is the non-Jewish practice of praying  which is  not as vocal. An even greater contrast can be seen between the study of Torah and how we go about learning secular studies. There are libraries in every community, school, and college campus which typically require that you observe the rule of respecting the environment of quiet, whispering softly only when necessary. Studying is usually done independently and quietly at desks and tables, sometimes with headsets and headphones to maintain the required silence. The complete opposite is found in a Beis HaMedrash where it is noisy, loud and full of the tumult that is the battle of Torah learning. The soldiers are entrenched on the battlefield known as the Beis Midrash facing their foe (the chavrusa) with their ammunition in the form of the Gemara, and their talent in the form of their minds, and their weaponry in the form of their mouths battling for the truth of Torah!

When a person reads a book with his eyes, that is exactly what is being done: reading or scanning the page, but not necessarily learning. When a person reads the words of a sefer, he says the words aloud- he is not just reading the words; he is concentrating on each word, learning in depth. The two components of the Torah are comprised of the Torah She’Bichsav,  the written Torah, and the Torah She’B’Al Peh, the oral law. The Oral law requires that every word is said out loud; it is not enough to just use one’s eyes, scanning across the page. This intense focusing on precise learning is  deduced from a verse in this week’s Torah portion.

In this week’s parsha Tzav the Torah states in Vayikra 8:3 during the episode of the installation of the Kohanim, “V’Eis Kal Ha’Eida HakHel, El Pesach Ohel Moed”: “Gather the entire community at the entrance of the Communion Tent”. I saw a beautiful elucidation of this line in a new sefer, *Malchus Beis Dovid. The author quotes the Netzi”v’s explanation of the purpose for this gathering. Rav Berlin explains in HaAmek Davar that if the gathering day was day eight, the day after the seven-day preparation course for the Kohanim, it could be understood as giving honor to Hashem with everyone gathering there together in order to display honor to the King by having a multitude of people attending. This day of gathering was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day the Mishkan was erected. But if the gathering was the previous seven days, known as Shivas Yemei HaMiluim, what and why was the purpose for gathering? It cannot even be compared to gathering when the Leviim were consecrated, because ‘Semicha” was involved, as stated “…and the Bnai Yisrael pressed their hands.” Even though only a few chosen men did the leaning, since it resembled a Korban, this is similar to when a Jew offers his sacrifice. That person needs to be there. From those two cases we know the purpose and the reason for the gathering. But why here?

The answer is found in Toras Kohanim where the Midrash teaches us that there were a few differences which were told to Moshe now and had been taught to him earlier. Because of this, it was necessary for everyone to come together again, this time to receive the tradition with its changes. Because of these changes, everyone needed to be present to hear the differences. From here we learn the power and strength of receiving Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral tradition. Even Moshe Rabbeinu himself would listen to Hashem’s oral directive, even though Moshe had written something contrary to that which was in the written law. Now the entire congregation of Israel would understand that the manner of the Torah comes through the Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral Torah, which is comprised of the Mishna and Gemara, the Talmud.

Later on in Vayikra 8:36, The Netzi”v explains the words “B’Yad Moshe”- in the hands of Moshe - referring to halacha, Jewish law, which means the Gemara. This is based upon a Gemara in Krisus 13 quoting a verse, “The words that Hashem spoke into the hands of Moshe.” The halacha apparently is the halacha L’Moshe MiSinai. The Gemara Sanhedrin 87 explains the concept of a law that was given to Moshe at Sinai represents strength of argumentation or debate that was given explicitly to Moshe. Here too, Moshe derived something on his own. He was MeChadesh; he created an entirely new depth of understanding - totally new ideas based upon the written law. This is the potency of the Oral law, particularly during the seven-day period of inauguration. Even though it says of the Mishkan, “to make for me a Tabernacle and I will dwell in it amongst you.” How is it possible that we interpret this to mean that Hashem will dwell in our midst? The answer is yes, with the koach HaTorah She’B’Al Peh it is possible to say that God will dwell among us despite the fact it does not say that precisely in the verse. Moshe learned it and Hashem gave His approbation to the learning and teaching of Moshe’s elucidation in the form of the Oral Law.

It is during the month of Nissan we look for ways to hasten the redemption, perhaps by learning and not just reading. Let us raise our voices in davening to Hashem with our Tefillos in Shul, and let the Kol (sounds of) Torah emanate from the Beis HaMedrash and look forward to bringing back the Davidic dynasty in the coming of Moshiach speedily in our day. Amen!                       

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Authored by Reb Dovid Bogopulsky, born 1992 in San Diego, Ca. He is currently an Avreich in Yeshivas Toras Moshe located in Sanhedria Murchevet. Reb Dovid lives in Jerusalem. He authored two other publications, Malchus Beis Dovid on Horiyos and Dudaei B’ni on Shas.  

Parshas Vayikra - The Call of Torah                  29 Adar 5778

03/16/2018 10:05:38 AM

Mar16

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

There are many different pleasures which each of us look forward to throughout our lives. Pleasure is a broad class of mental states that humans and animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. These include more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria. The early psychological concept of pleasure, referred to as the pleasure principle, describes it as a positive feedback mechanism which motivates every living creature to recreate that particular experience which it has just found pleasurable in the future and to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past.

The experience of pleasure is subjective; different individuals will experience different kinds and amounts of pleasure in the same situation. Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives, such as eating, exercise, hygiene, and more. The appreciation of cultural artifacts and activities such as art, music, dancing, and literature is often pleasurable.

Often, we do something for someone and that person expresses appreciation for your kindness and consideration. A typical exchange goes as follows: the recipient says, “Thank you,” while the giver replies “My pleasure”. There are a few situations where the pleasurable experience is physical but causes an internal feeling. Any professional gets satisfaction when his or her experience and skill set is used. I’ve experienced joy and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction of what a Rabbi/teacher gets a high from. A rabbi is a teacher, and a teacher enjoys teaching. When someone asks me a question, I immediately have a good feeling in the sense that the person wants to learn, and I have the opportunity to help them, teach them, and nurture growth. Last week I had an incredible experience which gave me an enormous amount of pleasure. I received a phone call from two young siblings about eight and five years old who said they had a question for the Rabbi! I was ecstatic as I carefully listened to their question about a young fruit tree, asking me when could they derive benefit from the tree by eating its fruit. I decided to show how important it was for children to ask questions and not be intimidated by asking the Rabbi. By the way, there are other children who come over with their parents and will ask a question on Shabbos. In this case I went over to the children’s house and looked at the fruit tree and discussed the relevant laws associated with fruit trees. I get such Nachas and satisfaction when children ask questions and parents arrange to have their questions asked and taken seriously. This is a level of “Chinuch” – education - that can only be learned at home. The Rabbi of a community is a resource for everyone and is happy when his expertise is sought.

A ‘Ben Torah’ and all who truly value the Torah continuously search for growth. Every Jew must live with a Torah outlook, a perspective or Hashkafa that centers around the growth of Torah and Mitzvos for themselves and their family. There are several indicators and factors that contribute and make up a good Torah Hashkafa. The case of children asking questions is one of those gauges. Someone who does not ask is not in growth mode. That person is instead using up their original resources which will eventually dry up. The message of Torah Chinuch cannot be stated more clearly than what Chazal (Rabbis, their memory should be a blessing) have to say about Chinuch at the very outset of Sefer Vayikra.

The Torah states in Parshas Vayikra at the beginning of both this week’s parshas Vayikra and next week in Parshas Tzav. In Parshas Tzav the Torah states 6:2 “Tzav Es Aharon V’Es Banav Laymore, Zos Toras HaOlah…” - “This is the law of the burnt elevation offering…”. The Medrash Rabbah at the end of 7:3 teaches us why there is a tradition for children to begin learning Chumash from Vayikra and not from Bereishis. The reason, Reb Assi says, ‘why is it that young school children begin to learn Toras Kohanim, the book of Vayikra, and not Bereishis? It is because young children are pure and innocent, let it be the pure Tahor – wholesome - ones should come learn about Tahara, about cleanliness and purity!!!” Yet in this week’s parsha Vayikra the Torah states in Vayikra 1:1 “Vayikra El Moshe…” “And Hashem called Moshe…” The Midrash Eicha Aleph states there is a Mesorah /tradition that the Aleph of the word Vayikra is small. Rebbi Yehuda said: ‘Come and see how dear the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban – the young school children - is to Hashem.’ God exiled the great Sanhedrin, but the Shechina, God’s essence, did not go into exile with them. God exiled the Mishmaros, the watch groups, but the Shechina did not go into exile with them. But when the school children were forced into exile, the Shechina went into exile along with them. We gather from the Midrash that the essence of Hashem’s presence was primarily there because of the young children learning Torah. In the merit that their mouths were full of Torah and empty of nonsense, there was no sin, hence Hashem’s presence would be glad to be with them even if that meant leaving Eretz Yisrael. This resulted in the greater Jewish people benefitting from the children’s learning that kept the Shechina close to the entire Jewish people in the Golus/exile.

*Reb Yosef Zvi Salant in his sefer B’er Yosef connects this to the Ark in Shmos 25:22 “I will commune (I will meet with you at set times) with you there, speaking to you from above the ark cover, from between the two cherubs that are on the Ark of Testimony. In this manner I will give instructions to the Israelites”. The Gemara Sukkah 5 asks ‘what is a Cheruv?’Rebbi Avahu said ‘Cherebia’ is like a baby for that is how a baby was called in Babylon. This hints to the fact that it was in the merit of the young small children that Hashem shrank Himself and His Shechina, His essence, in between the Cherubs. This was done to teach Torah and Mitzvos to the nation of Israel.

Adults and parents need to recognize that it takes Torah learning - especially for our young children - to have the Shechina live in our midst. Now, more than ever before, we who are living in the Golus of the Golus need to see the primary importance of Torah learning at all levels. We need to re-assess our Hashkafa, the outlook we have on the primacy of Torah in our schools, shuls and community. Communities grow by bringing in more Torah personalities and families who have a proper Torah Hashkafa to help influence the proper path we need to be on.

Our Shul and community should continue to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim and listen to the call of Moshe in raising the bar of Torah in our midst and be a shining light so that we, too, can listen to the sweet words of Torah emanating from the cherubs running all around us.

 

*Yosef Zundel of Salant (1786–1866) (also known as Zundel Salant) was an Ashkenazi Rabbi and the primary teacher of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter.

Zundel was born on the first day of Rosh Hashana in 1786 in Salantai, Lithuania. Little is known of his early years. He was a descendant of Rabbi Faivush Ashkenazi of Vilna (late 17th-early 18th century) His father was Rabbi Benyamin Beinush, who was a Shochet and Chazzan in Salant.

As a young man, Zundel studied in the Volozhin under Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. Following Rabbi Chaim's death in 1821, Zundel would make trips to study with Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

Salant's wife was Rochel Rivkah. They had three children: two daughters, Tziviah and Heniah, and an only son, Aryeh Leib. Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant refused to accept any rabbinical positions. He ran a small business which produced only a meager living. He chose to spend much of his time immersed in Torah studies and Mussar.

Zundel provided the spiritual inspiration for his most famous student, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement.

During the early years of the Mussar movement, Reb Zundel was seen in the marketplace on Friday afternoons, reminding the merchants that the Jewish Sabbath was approaching giving the merchants time to close their stalls and avoid desecrating the Shabbos.

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Gutten Chodesh
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayakhel / Pekudei / Parah - Time Heals All Wounds...Whose Time Is It?                  21 Adar 5778

03/07/2018 04:31:26 PM

Mar7

I have just concluded the year of Aveilus/mourning for my mother, Yocheved Bas Tzvi A”H. I’m not the first person to lose a loved one and go through the mourning process, nor will I be the last. Nevertheless, people ask about the transitions regarding time and status of being a mourner. Following the initial seven day period of sitting Shiva is the thirty-day period of Shloshim, concluded after eleven months by the cessation of saying Kaddish which is then eclipsed by the twelve-month, end-of-year-long process. The answer to the transitions of time and status for the mourner is multi-dimensional. Time, for the mourner, is capable of moving very slowly yet, simultaneously and mysteriously, also very quickly. For the person going through the period of mourning, time isn’t measured daily. Time, at least from my experience seemed to pass in chunks rather than hours or days or even weeks. All of us remark during the milestones of life “Where has the time gone?” For the mourner, or at least for me, the chunks of time moving me through the year seemed to be measured privately, internally. believe I grieved as my mother grieved for her losses. She did not show a great amount of outward emotion; she internalized her grief and moved on with life. She mourned appropriately and Halachikly - no more no less.

A 2008 Psychology Today article articulates that “Time doesn't heal; it's what you DO with the time that causes healing.” I am not going to disagree that keeping oneself busy will distract a person from sorrow and ease the burden during this difficult period of life. Keeping that in mind, a person can keep busy at the initial stages of worry, concern and bereavement and forget their woes altogether. What is the Torah’s perspective on time as a healer - both the long and short term?

The Halacha in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 394:1 states: “One is forbidden to mourn excessively. The first three days are for weeping, the first seven days for eulogy, and the first thirty days for refraining from haircutting and laundering. One should not grieve more than this.” The Sifsei Kohain, known as the Shach, in Y”D 344:9 states: “In mourning for one’s parent, certain laws apply for an entire twelve months. This is an aspect of the Mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother.” Mourning for thirty days is of Biblical origin, taken from the death of Yakov Avinu and later Moshe Rabbeinu. The extended eleven months for a parent is of Rabbinic nature (For reasons too detailed to list here). The Halacha in Shulchan Aruch which derived the law from the Torah mandates us to mourn for specific times, no longer, no shorter.

Another indication of the time for mourning is the time to erect the monument. The opinions range from immediately after Shiva up until after the twelve months have elapsed, but everyone agrees it should not be later than right after the year concludes. One of the major explanations given by Rebbi Akiva Eiger is that the purpose of the monument is to make sure that the person will not be forgotten. This is not necessary during the twelve months because the memory of the deceased remains fresh in people’s minds throughout the twelve months. The Rabbis taught that the memory of the deceased is forgotten, or dimmed, after twelve months. This does not mean we forget about our loved one. Rather it is stating that the pain and anguish we felt throughout the first year dissipates. This happens because of time. It matters little whether the mourner was busy or not during the time of mourning – when the year concludes, the process of mourning is over. We conclude the year by seeing the power and significance to the yearly cycle of events. Even more noteworthy is the renewal of something after a year has passed.

In a one hundred -eighty degree turn from mourning, we can value another aspect of Jewish life: the blessing of Shehecheyanu that is recited on a new creation, and other new and fresh things which follow a season or a year. There are certain Mitzvos that we are commanded to perform only once a year at a specific time, and therefore we recite a Shehecheyanu in addition to the blessing of that Mitzva. This coming Shabbos there is a Mitzva D’Oraisa, a Biblical commandment (just like Zachor) to read Parshas Parah according to Tosfos in Brachos 13. The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 685:7 states, “…therefore the people living in villages who don’t have a minyan need to go to a place where there is a minyan to listen to these portions which are Biblically commanded”. There is a story about the Chofetz Chaim, who prior to completing the Yeshiva building in Radun, davened with his students in a private home. On the Shabbos of ‘Zachor’ he went to the local Shul to listen to the reading because a Mitzva of such magnitude requires ‘Hiddur Mitzva” and therefore needed to read it B’Rov Am Hadras Melech - with a multitude of people and not with a small group. This principle holds true a hundred times more regarding the reading of the Megilas Esther. Some believe that they might be doing a good thing by creating more Megillah readings, by splitting into smaller groups. Not so. It is wrong to take away from the larger group to form smaller ones so that people can read privately when the alternative exists for everyone to come together.

Some people feel they can mourn a little more or a little less. They think their decision can be based upon their feelings, believing all fall within the boundaries of Halacha. I’m sorry to inform them that they are incorrect. They are wrong. The unity of the Jewish people does not depend upon the individual’s understanding of the Klal (the group); rather it is their submission to the Kehilla, to the gathering of the Jewish people, and to what we do together as a whole, not to individual parts.

This can be expounded upon through this week’s double Torah portions. The word ‘Vayakhel’ means to assemble - Moshe gathers Am Yisrael together. The second Parsha, ‘Pekudei’ means the accounts or to remember. *Reb Mordechai Yosef Leiner, known as the Ishbitzer. explains the connection between the two parshios in his sefer Mei HaShiloach, explaining that these are the accounts of the Mishkan, said to organize and complete the arrangement of Parshas Vayakhel. Parshas Vayakhel set up all the utensils and Kelim of the Mishkan, while Pekudei sets those items into motion, showing their actual practical use. First the Torah writes about the construction of the Ark (37:1) and later placed the Tablets in the Ark (40:20). In Vayakhel they made the Shulchan (37:10) and in Pekudei they arranged the bread on the Shulchan (40:23). In (37:13) they made the Lamp or the Menorah and later on (40:25) the lamps were lit before Hashem. In Vayakhel (37:25) the Incense Altar was made of gold and later in Pekudei (40:27) the incense was burned on it. In the beginning of Perek 38 the Sacrificial Altar was built, and in Pekudei (40:29) the offering and meal offering were burnt. The last connection in Vayakhel (38:8) the Kiyor, the washstand, was constructed and in Pekudei (40:30) it was filled with water for washing. The word ‘Pekudei’ means to fill in everything that was missing in the utensils made in Vayakhel.

Every person is a Keli/a vessel that Hashem has put into this world. That vessel needs to be filled and used for its ultimate purpose and goal - to serve Hashem with all of Klal Yisrael together. A person cannot pick and choose what goes in or what goes on top. There is a standard held across the board that unifies us all. It’s not about ME; it’s about WE.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (1801-1854) was a Rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Ishbitza-Radzyn Chasidic dynasty. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in the Polish town of Tomashov in 1801. At the age of two his father died. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev, who were also both born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there. In 1839 Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica. His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger, grandson of Rabbi Aiva Eiger. Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried beneath an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

 

Parshas Ki Sisa - Facebook Live                          15 Adar 5778

03/02/2018 09:34:51 AM

Mar2

Well, as usual, I find myself behind the eight ball again. As I get older I keep trying to stay in touch and keep current with technology, but I never seem to catch it quite right. By the time I get my act in order, a newer fad or system has already replaced the old one. I am finally getting into giving live classes on Facebook, only to learn that Facebook is for the old people already.

It took me a while to be convinced or just get over the hump of fear to just do it. Part of my hesitation was my ambivalence between using technology and certain social media that can be dangerous to the other extreme which supports many well-known, authoritative Rabbis who have sanctioned its use for Torah purposes. The far-reaching abilities technology creates are remarkable. Consider Hashem speaking on Har Sinai and the entire world able to hear it. Perhaps this is the modern mouth piece that can have such far- reaching potential, spreading Torah to the masses worldwide. Believe me, I’m not there yet and I don’t think my live classes will reach the four corners of the Earth. Nevertheless, this tool gives someone who cannot attend a class in person the opportunity to tune in to a Torah class and or simply to watch it later. I also hesitated to go online because there are so many other better Torah teachers out there. Why would someone want to listen to my Parsha or Tefilla shiur when they can easily click on one of the major leaders of today? The answer lies in the fact that a person will learn better from someone for whom they already have a connection. It feels a bit more personal when listening and watching someone you know on a live screen shot or a video recording. With today’s technology and instant video connection, we are as close as we possibly can get without physically being there. But keep in mind that with every positive substance that God gives us access to in this world also comes a downside element of negativity.

I am not going to lecture about all the dangers that lurk behind the dark side of the web and all its capabilities for someone to destroy their lives through it. But I would like to lecture on the shortcomings of the technology, particularly streaming live. The deficiency in live streaming classes is that while people feel it is just as good as actually being there in person, some even feeling it is superior to being there because anyone can take the Rabbi and his class anywhere he goes, the fact still remains that being face-to-face with someone, whether at a business meeting, class, chavrusa, bikur cholim, or even a shidduch date will have a more positive, personal effect than using skype, messenger or Facebook live. Our focus and concentration are challenged and most likely the individual will be diverted by distractions that the other person cannot see. You can ‘hide’ behind the screen, pick and choose when you want to listen, focus, pay attention or simply lose focus and even walk away without the ‘other’ knowing about it.

I’m uncertain if the benefits of having a class whenever and wherever I am outweigh the negative aspects or potential tendency to go online, replacing the ‘real’ lecture, class or Shiur. On the other hand, if we don’t offer every possible avenue for a person to learn, then they may not learn at all! To re-iterate, while I’m not convinced that that using modern technology is capable of measuring up to the effectiveness of attending a live Shiur, I am positive without a doubt that attending a class or a meeting in person far outweighs the alternative. A very famous story in the Talmud clarifies the distinction with regard to the whereabouts of a student vis-a-vis his teacher. In Gemara Eruvin 13b:Rebbi said: The reason that I am sharper than my colleagues is that I saw Rebbi Meir from behind. That is, I attended his lectures, if only to be seated behind him where I was unable to observe his face. And if I had seen him from his front, I would be even sharper. As it is written in Isaiah 30:20 ’And your eyes shall behold your teachers.’” Rav Shmuel Eidels* in his commentary on Gemara, known as Maharsha, explains the importance of seeing a teacher from the front because a teacher’s facial expressions convey meanings that are not conveyed through words alone.

There are times we see something and times when we think we see something. Images play a crucial role on our psyche. Professionals suggest that people who are dealing with physical and/or emotional pain that focus on happy thoughts and memories. Unfortunately, images can play tricks on our minds, causing us to err in judgment, making mistakes - as we see in the Torah.

In this week’s portion Ki Sisa the Torah states in Shmos 32:1: “Vayar Ha’Am Ki Bo’Sheish Moshe Laredes Min HaHar, Vayikahel HaAm Al Aharon, Vayomru Eilav, Kum Asei Lanu Elohim Asher Yeilchu L’Faneinu Ki Zeh Moshe HaIsh Asher He’Elanu MeiEretz Mitzrayim Lo Yadanu Meh Haya Lo”: “Meanwhile, the people began to realize that Moshe was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aharon and said to him, ‘make us an oracle to lead us. We have no idea what happened to Moshe, the man who brought us out of Egypt’. The Midrash Tanchuma teaches us regarding this verse that Moshe was delayed by six hours on the day he was to return back to the camp. When the sixth hour came, forty-thousand [of the Eirev Rav] and two magicians from Egypt who left Egypt along with the Jews approached Aharon. The two magicians, Yonos and Yombros, performed in front of Pharoah. They said to Aharon, ’Moshe is no longer coming down from the mountain as the deadline had passed.’’ Aharon and Chur said, ”He is now going to come down from the mountain.’’. They did not listen, and they showed a figure or an image of a bier with Moshe lying dead. Chur got angry and rebuked them, and they rose up and killed Chur. When Aharon saw this, he started to get busy with doing the things they wanted. All they had to do was show a fake image of Moshe dead, instilling fear into the people. After that, it would be a sure thing to convince the Bnai Yisrael of the necessity of something that would lead them as Moshe had.

Seeing is believing; something that is in front of you is the real thing and cannot be misconstrued for something else. Everyone must acknowledge that even Facebook live isn’t as good as being there in person. If it’s impossible to be there in person, then as a backup it’s certainly a better option than not learning at all. By the way, my next Facebook live will be on Shabbos, but if you can’t tune in then, show up in person!

 

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Freilichin Purim

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Shmuel Eidels (1555 – 1631) was a renowned Rabbi and Talmudist famous for his commentary on the Talmud, Chiddushei Halachot. Eidels is also known as Maharsha (מהרש"א, a Hebrew acronym for "Our Teacher, the Rabbi Shmuel Eidels")

Parshas Tetzaveh - The Sandwhich Generation         8 Adar 5778

02/22/2018 11:22:42 PM

Feb22

With technology improving and medicine advancing, health care for all generations, including the very young and the aging positively increases as well. Over the past fifty years, average life expectancy at birth has increased globally by almost twenty years, from 46.5 years in 1950--1955 to 65.2 years in 2002. This represents a global average increase in life expectancy of four months per year across this time span. In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by almost nine years between 1960 and 2011. To see three generations today is somewhat common, and we are now witnessing more and more four-generation families. Middle generations numbers two or three face a challenge dealing with their parents and grandchildren. There are a host of challenges which must be faced regarding caring for or attending to the needs of aging parents. We feel guilty because we cannot help enough primarily because we don’t have the time, resources or physical capacity to do the job. At the same time we struggle to allocate adequate time for our parents, we are also bombarded with the privilege and honor of raising our children while dealing with the burden of society’s challenges. This trial is common to many people in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.

There is another significant, uniquely Jewish crisis that looms for the ‘Sandwich Generation’ which has existed only within the last generation or two. I am referring to the Baal Teshuva movement, whereby returnees to observant Judaism face a challenge with their non-observant and sometimes non-Jewish parents, while at the same time are raising their children who surpass their parents’ knowledge. On one side there are the parents who are bereft of Jewish knowledge and practice, while on the other side are their children who are receiving a stronger and more intense Jewish education, I am certain that parents (in this case the Baalei Teshuva) are thrilled that their children come home from day school and yeshiva knowing so much Torah and being able to learn above and beyond them. Nevertheless, these parents need to find the right balance and mixture vital for effective parenting while still maintaining a proper perspective regarding their new lifestyle. This perplexing conundrum can lead parents to question their new lifestyle. How do we address the need to appropriately continue to educate both sides of the family’s generations - the ones who preceded them and the ones who come after them?

I am not sure I have a perfect solution, but I do have a suggestion. Beginning with last week’s parsha Teruma to the end of Shmos, we read and learn about the Mishkan and all that it contained. The Mishkan is the house where Hashem can reside in this world. But it also stands as a model for every Jewish home as well. The Jewish home is the place to raise our children, educate them and create harmony within all generations of family. It is interesting to note that in the printed Chumashim there are little ‘signs’ of interest. For example, there is a vertical line between the second and third word of Tetzaveh. Apparently, it is there to separate something, I would suggest the first word ‘You’ which typically and traditionally refers to Moshe, can be expounded upon to reflect every head of house. The line delineates a separation between the generations of the house of Israel. This message is reinforced in the following words of Chazal.

In this week’s Parshas HaShavua TeTzaveh the Torah states in Shmos 27:20 “V’Ata TeTzaveh Es Bnai Yisrael V’Yikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayis Zach Kasis LaMaor L’Ha’alos Ner Tamid”. “You, [Moshe], must command the Israelites to bring you clear, illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning”. Rashi explains the word ‘crushing’- the olives were crushed in a mortar; they are not ground with a mill-stone. This is done to assure that there will not be any remaining sediment. Only after he has obtained the first drop does he put the olives into a mill and grinds them. The second oil is unfit for the candlestick, but it is fit for the meal offerings, as it is stated ‘beaten for the light’, but it is not essential that it be beaten for meal offerings. Rav Aleksander Levinson explains that the difference between oil used for the candles and oil used for the offerings is the same difference in the two approaches to serve Hashem. Some serve God because they are commanded and thereby do it, while others serve Hashem as a hart (deer) yearns or longs to oblige. In the sense of the hart or deer, a person serves Hashem through an inner desire to get close to Him. The innermost voice within tells him to do the Mitzva. On the other hand, the person who does the Mitzva strictly because he is commanded to do so is like a servant who follows the command of his master without knowing why, without understanding the purpose for doing the Mitzva. Both methods of serving God are observed, and both methods are necessary.

Taking an olive and crushing it to take the oil for lighting of the menorah was strictly a commandment. The first words of the parsha and the name of the parsha “Tetzaveh” is the command. The command represents the first drop of oil to ooze out from the crushing process. This resulted from the obligation of the Mitzva itself. The second drop of oil for the Mincha offering was not from the crushing. The Korban Mincha was brought to show gratitude and give thanks for all the goodness Hashem bestows upon us. This sacrifice and offering came from within our essence, from a deep desire to get close to and cling to God. As it states in the beginning of Vayikra, it was the ‘Nefesh’- the soul - and the person who would offer it, not because it was a command. The word Nefesh/soul is only mentioned by the Mincha Korban.

Each and every person serves Hashem within his or her own capacity, some needing a direct command, others willing to do it on their own. A similar distinction is made between Chassidus and the contemporary Mussarniks. The strict Mussarniks who follow the laws in a more straight and narrow fashion are doing so because they are commanded. Chasidim, on the other hand, represent the inner joy in performing the commandments as a mechanism to get close to Hashem.

These two paths or philosophies need to be implemented in EVERY single Jew, sometimes using one method and, when necessary, sometimes applying the other. With regard to the extreme generations, we need to assign different methods to each group. When Baalei Teshuva deal with their non-observant relatives it must be taught through Tzivuy or command, this is what we do and this is how we do it. We educate them to the basic tenets and rules of the Torah. When it comes to the educated children of Baalei Teshuva, the parents need to display an inner spiritual desire to get ever closer to Hashem. Parents from all backgrounds need to teach by example and display the fire that burns in them to get close to Hashem. The ritualistic component obviously must be done, but to educate our children it must be from within and the desire that we want to do the Mitzvos not that we must do the Mitzvos.

Our hope and prayer is to educate from both sides and bring the family together, showing and displaying a love of Torah and fulfilling the Mitzvos because we are commanded to do so and because we want to do so.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Teruma - Give of Oneself                    30 Shevat 5778

02/21/2018 05:04:55 PM

Feb21

We Should not Air Out Our Dirty Laundry in Public…….but We Already Have!

Shuls, schools, and other organizations conduct many fundraisers. Money isn’t as cheap as it once was and raising money for funding of operations has become increasingly more challenging. There are many parts to a budget upon which we focus, especially regarding growth in both physical and spiritual matters. Ideally, all the money raised should go to fund things that proactively contribute to that growth, be it manpower, advertising, food-related costs and site beautification. Unfortunately, a significant portion of resources is dedicated to portions of the organization that can well be avoided. In addition to fundraisers, there is also the concept of fund savers. There ae noteworthy areas that we, as a community organization, can work towards saving money, thereby requiring less to raise - or better yet - more to spend on quality needs.

The opening of this article reflects my being one of the first to Shul on Friday afternoon as Shabbos enters and one of the last to leave as Shabbos departs. Upon entering the premises, look around at the playground, social hall, sanctuary, beis medrash, lobby, patio, and the general cleanliness of the entire Shul. Compare that to what the Shul looks like after Shabbos. When we have guests with children of all ages over for Shabbos, many toys, games and other things are out and about the house that were not there before they arrived. But there is never a time that parents just walk out leaving a mess behind. They encourage their children who played to clean up, and they leave the house as it was before they arrived. Why should it be any different when it comes to YOUR Shul? As a result, the Shul spends money on cleaning up our mess which is left behind. Cups, forks, plates, event fliers, paper towels, food, you name it. All of this can be seen strewn all over the property at different times. All books, seforim, talleisim and even chairs should be returned to exactly where they were taken from. If someone is last to leave, make sure the lights and air conditioning is shut off, as these utilities consume a lot of energy, especially during the summer months. There is no question the Shul - and any other organizations- want to provide for its customers and constituents and encourages the usage of the facility, inside and out. But it is unnecessary to pay workers to clean up after our own mess above and beyond the basic cleaning they perform for us. If we only commit to do the obvious right thing by respecting our spiritual home, the Mikdash M’At, we can save money and use it towards positive energy, rather than waste it on negative energy.

I know at this point many readers are rolling their eyes or blowing it off, perhaps thinking out loud the Rabbi is making a big deal out of nothing; he is exaggerating, or people are thinking, “This isn’t about me!” “I’m not guilty – it’s the other person.” Even so, everyone needs to take ownership in ways to correct the problem. We can all contribute in more ways than one, in this case by helping defray some of our ongoing costs. As crazy as you may think I am, this fund saver concept is found in the Torah.

In this week’s Torah reading Parshas Terumah the Torah states in Shmos 25:2: “Dabeir El Bnei Yisrael V’Yikchu Li Terumah, Mei’Eis Kal Ish Asher Yidvenu Libo Tikchu Es Terumasi”. “Speak to the Israelites and have them bring Me an offering. Take My offering from everyone whose heart impels him to give”. The very next two verses list some of the items that could be donated. “The offering that you shall take from them shall consist of the following: Gold, silver, copper, sky-blue wool, dark-red wool, linen, goats-wool, reddened ram’s skins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices, incense, sardonyxes and other precious stones for the ephod and breastplate”. Reb Nachman of Breslov teaches that everyone should bring from the choicest pledge of his heart. The Mishkan was built from that which was the best of the people’s possessions. The listing of items in the Torah are not just a list of items given but rather a list from which people selected the one, specific, unique thing that resonated with that individual.

I would like to share my own interpretation and read the pesukim a little differently. The simple understanding of the verses is that the donation of the heart can be fulfilled with any one of those items listed above. The list is an extensive one that would guarantee everyone the ability for everyone to contribute something. From the top level of gold down to oil for the lamp are certainly within everyone’s range and ability to give. Perhaps one might ask what did a truly poor person contribute? The answer is that the generation in the desert and the generation at the time of the building of the Beis HaMikdash were well off. Nevertheless, the lesson would be for the future building of the small sanctuaries throughout the world when money was not as plentiful. Even then a person could contribute by donating from his heart - even if that meant a non-donation but a contribution in some other fashion. The passuk says whoever wants to give should give from his heart. The period was put there to emphasize it isn’t only the ‘stuff’ that is referred to in helping the sanctuary.

If the following line had never been taught, I think it should. “Whoever cleans a sanctuary is considered as if they built it!” The grand-opening of any field, building or place will find it to be spotless on the very outset. If we bring something back to its original grandeur, it is considered to be as it was the first time. My cleaning of the grounds and tiding up after something has been used, putting it back to its original state, gets credit as if I had contributed to the original construction. Our small Mikdash needs every single one to be involved, not only by contributing cash, but by helping to keep it orderly and clean. This effort is just as valuable as contributing your financial support. Some may not be able to afford donating the gold and silver, but everyone can donate their time and effort. This is an opportunity to include our children and friends to build our Shul through sparing those wasted dollars on the clean-up for which that we are responsible.

Let us all take to heart the ability and the responsibility we each have to give from our hearts and to contribute the ultimate best - that which comes from a pure heart. In conclusion, all who show Hashem how deeply they care and respect the Mikdash M’At - the small sanctuary, our Shul - will have the merit to see Binyan Bayis Shlishi , the rebuilding of the Third Temple speedily in their day. Amen!

 

Ah Gut Shabbos from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mishpatim - Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse, But it is Reality                                     24 Shvat 5778

02/09/2018 08:35:31 AM

Feb9

One Yom Tov afternoon during lunch, I peered out my window and from the corner of my eye I noticed a parking enforcement vehicle stop by my car. At the time of this event, we had been living in San Diego for only a couple of years. I wondered why the officer was writing me a summons. Quickly, I ran out and assured the officer that I had my Permit B parking sticker. The officer informed me I was being cited for not turning my wheels away from the curb. I was in total shock, and said to her, “I did not know that was a law!” She said, “Did you pass your driver’s test? it’s in the driver’s manual.” Sheepishly, I admitted defeat and said, “O.K., just write the ticket.” She immediately said, “Go ahead and turn them now and I won’t cite you.” I replied, thank you but it’s a holiday and I can’t go into the car.” She then asked me to give her the keys and she’d turn the wheel for me.” Again, I had to tell her, “I can’t do that. Just write the ticket.” She could not believe someone would do such a thing. She tore up the ticket, totally exacerbated.

Parking on public streets and alleys is regulated by the San Diego Municipal Code and the California Vehicle Code. One of the general provisions of law applies to whether there are signs or curb markings present or not. “Wheel cramping is required on all grades over 3% (hills) with or without the presence of signs. Block your wheels diagonally against the curb by turning your wheels into the curb when facing downhill and out to the street when facing uphill.”

The purpose of curbing your car’s wheels is to prevent an accident should the brakes fail. Therefore, if you are headed downhill, turn your front wheels into the curb or toward the side of the road and set the parking brake. Headed uphill, turn your front wheels away from the curb and let your vehicle roll back a few inches. The wheel should gently touch the curb. Then set the parking brake. Headed either uphill or downhill when there is no curb, turn the wheels so the vehicle will roll away from the center of the road if the brakes fail. I thought this was an outdated law given that the brake systems of modern cars are much better and safer today than when the law was instituted. That logic was shattered when I witnessed my neighbor getting a ticket for not curbing his wheels. I questioned the officer and he told me there are instances even today that necessitate the wheels being turned. He told me if a vehicle plows into a parked car, it’s very likely, or at least possible, that the brake could disengage, possibly causing the car to roll into the street. I learned a valuable lesson. Just because Ithink the law should not apply today for reason “X,” it may still be needed for reason “Y” - a probability which I never thought or knew about!

Throughout my teaching and Rabbinic career, I’ve received three basic reactions when discussing certain Mitzvos and our obligations to observe them. The response is either, "The reason no longer applies", “I did not know that” or “That’s ridiculous!” Frequently, the latter reaction is due to a lack of education or belief. It all boils down to more learning of the Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral Torah - which compliments and explains the written law. When it comes to Mitzvos, there are two words that describe them: Chukim and Mishpatim. Chukim are the laws that we do not understand; we do not know the reasons which underlie why we observe them. These are commandments that a society creating laws would not come up with. Mishpatim, the namesake of this week’s parsha, are laws that we do understand; we would implement these laws when building a community. There were a few Rishonim* who enumerated the six hundred thirteen commandments from within the fifty-four parshios of the Torah. These Rishonim do not agree on the actual place in the Torah from where each Mitzva is derived or learned. Ramba”m lists Mishpatim tied fourth with the most Mitzvos in any one parsha, while the sefer HaChinuch** lists Mishpatim as the parsha with the fourth most Mitzvos. Some Mitzvos are difficult or challenging to decipher as to whether the Mitzva is a Chok or a Mishpat. Clearly there are certain situations where a Mitzva can beinterpreted to be both between man and man or man and God, depending upon the situation.

In this week’s Parshas Mishpatim we learn of at least one Mitzva that can have multiple meanings and connotations. In Shmos 21:2 the Torah states: “Lo Tihyeh Acharei Rabim L’Raos, V’Lo Ta’Aneh Al Riv Lintos, Acharei Rabim L’Hatos”. “Do not follow the majority to do evil, do not speak up in a trial to pervert justice, a case must be decided based upon the majority.” It is obvious that we should not follow anyone who is doing evil. It is also obvious in cases of law that we decide according to the majority. In questions of Halachik uncertainty, the Rabbi’s derive “to follow the majority” from this concept. For example, if an unidentifiable piece of meat is found in the market where there are ten butcher shops, nine kosher and one non-kosher, the meat is deemed kosher. But if nine out of ten were treif and one kosher the meat can not be eaten.

Reb Elchonon Wasserman ZT”L (1874-1941) writes in his sefer Kovetz HeAros about a famous exchange between Reb Yonason Eybeshutz (1690-1764) and one of the wisest Gentile scholars. The gentile challenged the Rabbi as follows: “It states in your Torah to follow the majority, and your nation is the fewest in number of all the nations of the world. Given this fact, why don’t you and your people follow our beliefs?” Reb Yonason answered, “The rule and law of following the majority is only applicable in areas of doubt; it is not applicable when we are sure of something. In the case of the meat, if the piece of meat was discernible and we knew that it was not kosher, we don’t say it is kosher because nine out of ten stores only sold kosher meat. Rather, in that situation the meat is still not good and not kosher.” So too with the Jewish people and our belief in Hashem. We do not have any doubts as to our belief about Hashem and the Torah and all the principles that go along with these beliefs. Despite the other nations of the world making up the majority of the population, we are sure of what we know; we are sure of our beliefs. Therefore, the majority rule does not apply to us in this situation. The Chasam Sofer adds if there is logic, if there are plausible arguments, then we follow the majority. If the issues discussed can be seen from both sides of the argument, then we follow the majority. However, an issue that is as clear as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, no matter how many people emphatically state the opposite, we do not follow them. We know Hashem and His Torah is EMES/ truth. This is no question to be discussed in a rational scientific, logical manner.

Many Jews in the world are uneducated, lacking a well-rounded, solid Jewish education. Unfortunately, this leads such a person to join most people who challenge and don’t follow the Torah. It behooves every Jew to thoroughly learn the Torah, to see for himself or herself the absolute truth and follow the minority in the face of the majority. My hope and prayer is for every Jew to become educated in Torah and not to use ignorance as an excuse for not following the Torah and do Mitzvos. Equally important is to keep in mind if we think the reason for the Mitzva no longer applies......think again

 

*Rishonim "the first ones" were the leading rabbis and poskim, who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries during the era before the writing of the Shulchan Aruch "Set Table", a common printed code of Jewish law, 1563 CE and following the Geonim (589-1038 CE). Rabbinic scholars after the Shulkhan Arukhare generally known as acharonim ("the latter ones").

 

**The sixteenth century author Gedalya Ben Yichyeh credited the Sefer ha-Chinuch to Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Barcelona (1235-c. 1290), a Talmudic scholar and halachist.Others disagree, as the views of the Chinuch contradict opinions held by HaLevi in other works. This has led to the conclusion that the true author to Sefer HaChinuch was a different Reb Aharon Halevi, a student of the Rashba, rather than his colleague. Though there is a debate about who is the true author, it is agreed that the Sefer HaChinuch was written by a father to his son, upon reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah.

 

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Parshas Yisro - Exposing the Covered                16 Shvat 5778

02/01/2018 03:04:51 PM

Feb1

Every morning I try to be as cheerful as possible, saying good morning to people with a smile. Recently, I encountered someone (a regular) and as usual, said, “Good morning,” but didn’t have that pearly white smile on my face. Surprisingly, the person said to me, “No smile today?” To which I quickly replied, “The smile is there; it is just covered by my mouth and lips.”

There was a famous line by Alan Alda, an actor who portrayed an emergency mobile army hospital surgeon during the Korean War. When necessary, the surgeons would work round the clock, sometimes for thirty-six hours straight as the flow of wounded soldiers seemed to never cease. Sometimes there was a lull in the fighting, giving ample time to rest, but once again, after a long shift, they would be inundated with more casualties. One time, being completely exhausted, he lay down to catch some sleep only to be awakened by the corporal who, questioning the exhausted surgeon with, “Why are you sleeping?” replied, “I’m not sleeping, I’m just checking the inside of my eyelids. ”In other words, our eyes are always open, but the lids cover them up!

There is a prayer we recite once a month call “Birkas HaChodesh”, the blessing of the incoming new month. However, the very same term, “Birkas HaChodesh,” is used in the Talmud to designate a very different ritual – a blessing praising God for the new moon, recited outdoors while gazing at the waxing moon at the beginning of the month. This ritual, with which many Jews, even those who attend synagogue services regularly, are unfamiliar, is known as ‘Kiddush Levana’ - an actual rabbinic commandment required by the Talmud. ‘Kiddush Levana’ is loosely translated as sanctification of the moon. The source of Kiddush Levana is in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 42. It is not one the 613 Mitzvot, but it is a Rabbinical Mitzvah that was instituted to help us realize the greatness of Hashem through His wondrous creation. Men are required to recite Kiddush Levana, but because this is a time-bound commandment, women are exempt.

In certain locations weather poses a great challenge with regard to fulfilling this Mitzvah. Nevertheless, to recite the blessing, one must see the moon at night for at least one second. Prior to the time there is at least one if not more than one person in any given Shul throughout the world who goes outside to see if the moon is visible. Invariably, they come back and will either say the “There is a beautiful moon that can be seen,” or “There is no moon. ”Now what do they really intend to say about the moon, that it disappeared? We all know that just because we can’t see the moon does not mean that it is not there. To the contrary, despite the fact that we can’t see the moon we still know it is there, usually just covered by clouds, an integral part of the Jewish camp when they traveled through the desert. Perhaps the first time we are introduced to the cloud was when Moshe literally entered it. A cloud typically obscures something, creates a blur, creates a sense of vagueness, making things unclear. What exactly was the purpose of the cloud that covered Har Sinai?

In this week’s parshas Yisro, the Torah describes the giving of the Torah in great detail. Not only do we read about the actual commandments but the incredible lasting impressions of the awesomeness and excitement through which the commandments were given. The aftermath was just as critical as the events leading up to and including the giving of the Ten Commandments. The Torah states in Shmos 20:18, “VaYaamode Ha’Am MeiRachok, U’Moshe Nigash El HaArafel, Asher Sham Elokim”: “The people kept their distance while Moshe entered the Arafel where the Divine was revealed”. Rashi describes the Arafel as a mist while Hirsch, based upon the Radak, explains it to be a heavy cloud. According to other opinions, namely Rabbeinu Bachya and Meam Loez, it was a ‘glowing light’. The HaKesav V’Hakkabalah called it a ‘blinding light’. On this verse the Mechilta says Moshe went through three partitions to reach God. The three partitions were darkness, a cloud, and the Arafel. The first partition was darkness, this was the outer layer. The cloud was inside of that and the Arafel was within the inside. The verse says Moshe approached the Arafel, an image paralleling the Kohein Gadol entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. As Moshe and or the Kohein Gadol entered and went in deeper, the got closer to Hashem he got, a greater light was revealed, both in the Beis HaMikdash and into the Arafel on top of Har Sinai.

The Malbim explains that darkness prevents the light from shining at all. Darkness can completely shut out any light. In the cloud there is a degree of light, but the cloud can create a separation between Moshe and the great light. The cloud gathers all the light and holds it together preventing the access to this light. The Arafel is in an area that spreads the light that was being held back. As Moshe infiltrated the series of partitions, he was able to get closer to Hashem, reaching a level of understanding God more than any other man. With this understanding we see why the verse concludes with the words “Where Hashem was there and revealed.” Moshe reached a level of understanding Hashem’s presence and place in the world because Hashem’s presence fills the world.

We live in a world of darkness because we are not able to access the light. Moshe worked on himself to reach a level where he could gain access to the light and see clearly God’s presence in the world. We must realize the light that provides clarity and reality to the world. The trouble is due to the physical components of the world, darkness blocks out the light. If we are able to get beyond the physical, then we, too, would also enjoy the brightness and truth of the world as Moshe did. We strive on a daily basis to get a glimpse past the cloud that obscures the light in order to see and feel the Shechina - God’s presence. Even if we are unable to reach the level of Moshe, Hashem will nevertheless one day remove the cloud that covers the light. Not only will the Jewish people merit to see this light but other select individuals will be able to see it as well. In particular, we are recognizing the greatness of Yisro who we read about in the beginning of this parsha which describes his acute awareness of God. This is reflected in Avos d’Rebbi Nosson in 35:4 who says, When the Holy One, blessed is He, reveals His Presence, He will reward Yisro and his children well.

We should all be blessed with the strength of removing the darkness and display the light through a good eye, a big smile and seeing through the clouds!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

סנהדרין מב. ובשו"ע או"ח סימן תכו, ושם בערוה"ש סעיפים א-ב, וע"ע מ"ב סימן קו ס"ק ד*

Parshas B'Shalach - You Cannot Lead Where You Do Not Go          9 Shvat 5778

01/25/2018 11:38:49 AM

Jan25

This Dvar Torah is L'Ilui Nishmas in memory of Esther Rochel Bas Nachum, Rose Bogopulsky A"H, on her Yahrzeit 11th of Shvat

One need not look far for inspiration; sometimes it’s right there in front of us. There are some amazing people whom we see every day, but take a moment to just think how amazing they are. We think we need to hear great stories and share incredible moments to be inspired by people and the things they do. Take the time to look around. You man notice a neighbor, a co-worker, or a relative who has done something awesome - and they do it every day. A short example is being so impressed, so awe struck when someone donates a kidney. Lo and behold I have a cousin whose own son gave him a kidney. One might say, “Oh, for a relative this isn’t so impressive; who wouldn’t do that?” Well, let me tell you, from my perspective it’s a very big deal.

Closer to home, I have come to not only respect but rather be impressed by a man who lives in the Shul apartments. Mr. Timothy King, who prefers to be called Tim, is African American (I obtained his permission to write about him) and has been living here for about three years. Whenever I see him, I say hello and we chat for a few minutes, usually about the current sports of the day. Unfortunately, he still smokes and needs to light up off Shul grounds, so I usually catch him in the parking lot either on the way towards the gate or back to his apartment. One day, he was struggling up a tiny incline in the parking lot. I immediately went over and asked him if he needed some help. “No, no,” he said, “I’m o.k. I just need to get a little exercise.” You see, Tim was born with some deformities: no legs, one healthy arm, and the other only a stump. I always see him in his motorized wheelchair, but that day he was using an ordinary wheelchair. He was wheeling and pushing himself with his one healthy arm, but it was a gruesome struggle. I asked him if he needed help being pushed, and if something had happened to his motorized chair. He answered in the negative to both questions. His motorized chair was working, and he did not need help (although he appreciated the offer) because this is the way he is able to exercise. Being very limited in his capacity to exercise, wheeling himself gets his heart pumping and his blood flowing. He needed to push, and it was not easy for him, nor was it easy for me to watch. The sheer determination and resolve to do it on his own was humbling. There is no question the strength of character and mind is what gives him the will to literally push forward. He is always on the move and is driven by his purpose. Tim knows the only way for him to survive is to continue to work hard, to push forward and not allow anything stop him from living.

The challenges, walls, and barriers that Hashem places in front of people are the daily tests we must face and go through in life. The success or failure, more often than not, lies in our determination and resolve to push on and tackle the encounters as they come. This is clearly seen in the Torah as the Jewish people, finally set free by Pharoah, look behind them and see Pharoah’s army chasing them. Staring in front of them is the Sea of Reeds. With no place to go, the Jews question Moshe by saying, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Why did we need to come here to die? Moshe replies, stating usual, “Don’t worry. God will rescue you today.” And so what did they do? Read on…..

In this week’s Parshas B’Shalach The Torah states in Shmos 14:15: “Vayomer Hashem El Moshe Mah Titzok Eilay, Dabeir El Bnei Yirael V’Yisaoo”. God said to Moshe,”Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Israelites and let them start moving.” Apparently, as Moshe lifted his staff in order to split the sea, all the people froze in place except Nachshon Ben Aminadav. The time was now. Already in the water up to his neck at that split second when Moshe was getting ready to split the sea, Nachshon Ben Aminadav continued to move forward as the sea split. What was it that actually made the Yam Suf split? Was it Moshe and his staff or Nachshon’s determination, Emunah, and Bitachon in Hashem that something will happen, allowing him and the people to follow to safety? The Gemorah Sotah 37a tells us that each tribe was unwilling to enter the water first. One tribe said, “I will not be the first to descend into the sea,” while another tribe declared, “I will not be the first to descend.” At that point Nachshon, son of Aminadav, the prince of the tribe of Yehuda, leaped forward, descending first into the sea. The Midrash Rabbah in Bamidbar 13:7 explains, ‘Why was he called Nachshon, because he was the first to go down into the surf (in Hebrew Nachshol) of the Red Sea. Therefore, God told Moshe, “He who sanctified My Name in the sea will be the first to bring his offering in the dedication of the altar.’”

At that precise moment Moshe was praying at length. Hashem then said to Moshe, “My dear ones are drowning in the sea while you linger in prayer with me?” Moshe said before God: “Master of the Universe, but what is it in my power to do?” God responded: “Speak to the children of Israel and let them journey forth.” Reviewing this story, we can ask ourselves: was it the fact that Moshe prayed and lifted up his staff that split the sea, or did it split because the Jews walked through and caused the sea to split? The answer is, it was Nachshon’s initiative to start the process and force Moshe’s hand to daven to Hashem and get the people behind to go in as well. Nachshon was able to lead because he dared to go into a place where men don’t usually go. What was it that gave Nachshon the fortitude to do what he did? It was his Emuna and Bitachon the faith and security in the Almighty that this is the path he must lead on.

It is easy to say I have Emunah (faith) and Bitachon (trust), but it is something totally different to live and act with complete Emunah and Bitachon, especially when the pressure is on. Having Emunah and Bitachon isn’t something we are just born with; it develops over time by learning and reading about it, by listening to and reading stories of great people who live and breathe entirely through faith and security from God. By doing so we will strengthen ourselves, providing us with the fortitude to take the lead and go places that otherwise we would never go. Let us all learn from Nachshon ben Aminadav and Tim King to take a leading role for the Jewish community and push forward in the continued success of building Beth Jacob Congregation and ultimately the House of Yakov Avinu.

Parshas Bo - The Gantz Mishpacha                        3 Shvat 5778

01/18/2018 10:41:44 PM

Jan18

It was twenty-one years ago this week that BJSD’s new, young rabbi was officially installed as the new Rabbi of the congregation, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Diego. Rabbi Berel Wein, along with local city dignitaries attended the beautiful affair. Things that endure over time inevitably go through many changes; this axiom applies particularly to people. Over the years there is always not only turnover, there are changes in the demographics and group dynamics which change as well. The continuity of a Shul/congregation is dependent upon new members, especially young families, to join, thereby keeping the cycle of life going. As simple as this sounds, there are a lot of trying situations involved in order to effectively balance the seasoned members and the new members, the young and the old, and, of course, the different levels of observance.

Before arriving, I was warned of the different groups that existed within the Shul, particularly the tension which existed between the older, more established, long-standing members and the newer, young families. The feelings were so strong that when my wife and I were invited to spend a Shabbos at Beth Jacob to meet the members of the Shul, lead the services, speak, and have my wife give a ladies’ class, we were also expected to attend two melava malkas: one for the “older” members and one for the “younger” member families. After being offered the position and accepting it, one of the first things on my agenda was to rid the shul of this separation. The Torah warns and commands us with a mitzva of “Lo Tisgodedu” - do not make separate groups; figure out a way to be together.

The Parsha of the week of the installation dinner was parshas Bo, and my speech addressed this issue. A brief part of the speech focused on Parshas Bo, specifically when after the eighth plague Pharoah’s officials said to him, ”How long will this man (Moshe) continue to be a menace to us?” Moshe and Aharon were brought back to Pharoah who said to Moshe: ”Go. Serve God your Lord.” “But,” Pharoah additionally inquired, “exactly who will be going?” To which Moshe replied the powerful words found in Shmos 10:9: “Vayomer Moshe, Binar’einu U’VisKeineinu Neilech, B’Vaneinu U’Vivnoseinu B’Tzoneinu U’Vivkareinu Neilech Ki Chag Hashem Lanu.” “Young and old alike will go,” replied Moshe. “We will go with our sons and our daughters, with our sheep and our cattle. It is a festival to God for all of us.”

In dissecting this verse the Ksav Sofer explains the reason Moshe began with the young before the old was because Egypt was considerably more dangerous for youth, more so than for the elderly. Children are very impressionable, and the youth were susceptible to the idolatry of Egypt. The older generation had already been immersed, remembering their Judaism and were therefore not threatened. The Ponovizher Rov, Rav Yosef Kahaneman, explains that the usage of old and young was due to the fact that an individual is an orphan when he doesn’t have parents, but a nation is orphaned when there are no children. Reb Yitzchok from Volozhin says it will be a Chag/holiday for us when we depart from you (Pharoah) and go to our own land. The Netzi”v explains the holiday aspect as follows: It is impossible to celebrate a festival and be happy without sons and daughters, and we need the sheep and cattle for the holiday’s sacrifices and offerings. We need our children and animals to celebrate properly. What kind of joy would we have if our children remained in Mitzrayim? It states later in the Torah “V’Samachta B’Chagecha, Ata, U’Bincha U’Bitcha”: “You will rejoice in your festivals, you, your sons and your daughters.” The Gemara Shabbos 119 recalls the words of the sages: “Yerushalayim was destroyed only because the people diverted the school children living in Yerushalayim from their Torah studies. Rabbi *Yehuda Rosanes (1657-1727) in his sefer Parshas Derachim explains that it was in the merit of the children’s learning that the Shechina - God’s presence - was settled on the Jewish people. As long as the Shechina rests upon the Jews, no nation is able to rule over us. This is what worried Pharoah; if the children were going to learn, he would lose control over the Jewish people. On the other side of the spectrum is the older generation. Without the elders who would there be to teach the children and to be role models for them? Without the older generation how would the young connect to our mesorah? Therefore, it was just as critical to include the older, previous generation.

As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I are entering our twenty-second year at Beth Jacob. According to the CDC, the average age of mothers at the time of the birth of their first child is 26.7 and increasing. Currently, a growing number of women are giving birth throughout their 30s and even early 40s. In population biology and demography, generation time is the average time between two consecutive generations in the lineages of a population. In human populations, generation time typically ranges from 22 to 33 years. We are now witnessing and living through the new upcoming generation, Baruch Hashem! For all intents and purposes, my tenure here is now in the next generation, facing a very different demographic than the previous generation. This is all good news, but not without challenges.

There is an active shift in the leadership and lay leadership of our Shul and community to enable nurturing strong continuity and sustaining of our recent growth. We are so blessed to have young minds at work, people with great talent and commitment to our Shul and future. We are all aware of the influx of new young couples and families within the last few years. Let us all be fully cognizant that this growth is not challenge and obstacle-free. Bringing together new people from all walks of the religious, economic and social life requires patience and fortitude on everyone’s part to allow the melding of the community. It is crucial for the younger generation to reach out to the older members - and also for the older members to actively and warmly reach out to the younger members - making the sincere effort to include each other in activities, meals, and so forth. It is particularly critical for the young members to make an extra effort to reach out and include all of their peers, making EVERYONE at Beth Jacob feel welcome and part of our growing family, Kein Yirbu.

  1. us all continue building Beis Yakov and have in mind L’Chu V’Neilcha: let us walk and go with our young and our old, serving Hashem as one family, eachcontributing our essential and necessary talent to the mix. May we all be Zocheh to have our Beis HaKnesses move to Eretz Yisrael in the time of the rebuilding of the Bayis Shlishi speedily in our day. Amen!

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

* Rabbi Yehuda Rosanes (1657-1727) was Rabbi of Constantinople. Due to his knowledge of Arabic and Turkish, he was appointed by the government as Chief Rabbi ("hakam bashi") of the Ottoman empire. Rabbi Rosanes took a very active part in condemning
and denouncing the Shabbethaians, and he was one of the signers of an appeal to the German communities to oppose the movement.

Parshas Vaera - Human Connections           25 Teves 5778

01/18/2018 10:38:58 PM

Jan18

This Dvar Torah is sponsored by Rand and Nomie Levin in memory of Rand's father Aryeh Leib Ben Yisrael HaLevi on his Yahrzeit.

Hiking on the Lake Murray six-mile 10k round trip footpath, an array of different kinds of people can be observed doing assorted things. I typically observe at least five different groups or categories of these individuals on this course, including some sub groups as well. The main categories are as follows: Walkers, Bicyclists, Joggers, Animal strollers (people walking their dogs), and people schmoozing while sitting on the occasional benches placed along the path. I believe there is a sociological pattern that can be observed among any one of the five categories mentioned above. Most importantly, a marked degree of comradery exists within each group. Despite the fact we are all strangers to one another, there exists an automatic kinship with others who fall into any of these specific groups.

As mentioned above, the Lake Murray path is not a complete loop but rather a two-way three-mile one way, three-mile return track. Whichever direction you are going, you always see people on the other side of the path walking, jogging, biking in the other direction. I’ve noticed that people who are doing the same type of exercise, be it walking, or riding, acknowledge the person going in the other direction if they are doing the same thing. Take me for example, I give a nod and receive a nod in return from those who are jogging, but not necessarily from those on bicycles. Those who are walking their dogs seem to stop and greet total strangers inquiring about each other’s pets. The bicyclists have their own acknowledgement by raising their hand a bit off the handlebar.

This sort of behavior is not exclusive to exercise; it is found in any place of routine. When I attended high school, I used public transportation. I traveled on the New York City subway system for three years and became accustomed to seeing the same people day after day at the same time, going to the same station and even sitting or standing in the same location in the car itself. It did not take long for me, or, as I observed, others who recognized the friendly face of the stranger whom they saw every day. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and this rule is no different. There are people on the exercise path or who are going to work who just mind their own business and don’t want anything to do with anyone else. They practically hold a sign up that reads, “Do not disturb,” or “Leave me alone”. A final example may take place among the work force at a business or office where common areas are designated for employees to congregate: the coffee cart, the employee lunch room, and the like. We may not be in the same department or have any direct business dealings with the individual, but we do exchange small greetings and chit chat a bit.

On the one hand it is a nice thing to show the friendship and rapport with our colleagues with whom we work or commute. On the other hand, however, as Jews we need to be careful to create guidelines and set limits to our interactions and engagements. No one is above the realm of perfection. We don’t rely on our mitzvos and religious dedication to insure and guarantee that we won’t sin. The influence from the outside world does not only exist, it is very tempting, pervasive and powerful. We need to take precautions to shield ourselves from the influences of the outside world, maintaining awareness of the non-Jewish element which surrounds us and the state of exile we are currently in. Some people may think that I am exaggerating or overreacting to the fears of the influences that threaten our Jewishness and our commitment to a Torah life style. Obviously, I don’t think I’m overdramatizing the situation. We only need to look in the Torah to see how such influences can influence.

In this week’s parsha Vaera the Torah states in Shmos 9:29 “Vayomer Eilav Moshe, K’Tzeisee Es HaIr, Efros Es Kapai El Hashem….”. “Moshe said to him (Pharoah), when I go out of the city I will spread my hands in prayer to God….”. Moshe Rabbeinu tells Pharoah that he can not pray in Egypt, rather he must leave the area. Rashi elaborates, stating: “He had to leave because in the city Moshe could not daven because it was full of idols and idolatry”. What was the fear that Moshe had? Was Moshe afraid that he might end up praying to the idols? Certainly not, rather he was afraid of the influence the idols would have upon him which would have an adverse effect on his Tefilla/prayer. From this episode we clearly see the greatness of Moshe. If Moshe was afraid of the bad influence of Mitzrayim, the idols and the atmosphere around him, then how much more so we need to be concerned about the forces around us in this exile.

The challenge of the outside influences over Judaism is not a new phenomenon; it has existed in all generations. Dovid HaMelech in Tehilim 106:35 says, “When you mix among the nations you learn from their ways”. Rambam in Hilchos Deos 6:1 states: “It is human nature to be influenced by one’s friends, adopting the moral standards of the people around us. Therefore, associate with righteous people and constantly be in the company of Torah scholars in order to learn from their behavior. Stay away from the wicked who walk in darkness so that you will not learn from their deeds”. A person should not fool himself and say, “What do I care about my surroundings and the outside evils? I am not connected to any part of them.” The nature of a person is drawn from what is around him.

The problem is we do live in a foreign, non-Jewish country with a heavy-duty influence surrounding us. What can we do to survive? Should we leave the city every time we need to daven, emulating Moshe? We do greet our co-workers and nod to our neighbors and share some common activities? What can we do to guarantee maintaining our uniqueness and preserve our Yiddishkeit? The Navi Malachi 3:6 says, “God does not change. Outside forces have no influence upon Him; they can’t even touch Him. Hashem is represented by the Torah in this world. It is the Torah that guards God and we must use the Torah as our shelter and protection from the elements attempting to infiltrate our spiritual lives of holiness and purity.

The one and only protection when we go out into the world is the Torah itself. The Torah is the antidote to all the evil forces distracting us away from Hashem. As long as we learn and keep the Torah then the human connections will not influence or steer us away from Hashem. To the contrary, the Torah will bring us closer to Him.

Ah Gut Shabbos
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shmos - More Employees, Not Less, is the Answer                      18 Teves 5778

01/04/2018 10:40:58 PM

Jan4

I am a firm believer that everyone should have at least one but preferably two hobbies in life. The reason two would be better is that they each work as a kind of diversionary occupational insurance policy: if you get bored of one of them, you always have the other. On the other hand, having too many hobbies leaves you unable to focus on any particular one and never really fulfilling the pleasure of a genuine hobby. Hobbies are largely investments of time and money, usually without any monetary gain involved. They are, without a doubt, beneficial enjoyment upon which there is no price tag.

For those of you who know me, one of my hobbies is playing the stock market. True to my analysis and definition of ‘hobbies,’ I invest money without any monetary gain. One of my investment ‘hobbies’ was General Electric; if I would have sold that stock at the right time, I would have made some money, but then again it would no longer have been my hobby. So, for those of you who follow the market - and GE in particular - understand clearly that thanks to the fact that I still own it, I am definitely fulfilling the ‘hobby’ aspect of this investment. I am a believer in GE and will hold onto it until I see a profit from it, but the turmoil my stomach has endured has been rough through their transition to new leadership. It only made matters worse when I read an article that I completely agree with, and I hope this trend will reverse itself. Here is an excerpt from the article:

An August 31, 2017 article in Fortune Magazine suggests that John Flannery, the incoming CEO of GE, is looking to make “aggressive” job cuts in the next year to reduce spending and increase profits. “We have a plan to take out $2 billion in cost by the end of 2018,” GE spokesperson Jennifer Erickson said. “We’ve said John [Flannery] is reviewing all aspects of the company. He will present to investors in November.”

Cutting costs are always easier than actual innovation. It’s the low-lying fruit a new CEO can pick to make an immediate impact with the board. Long-term, however, it does little for GE stock and GE shareholders. Digitization might be the solution to GE’s woes, but it shouldn’t come at the hands of job losses. Creating jobs is one of the best ways I know to add value to shareholders and GE stock. Companies that are adding jobs are growing. That’s simple economics! Economics is the science that concerns itself with economies - how societies produce goods and services and how those societies consume them. It has influenced world finance at many important junctions throughout history and is a vital part of our everyday lives. The assumptions that guide the study of economics have changed dramatically throughout history with this one exception: adding manpower shows growth. We see this clearly in the transition from Chumash Bereishis to Shemos. Rav Aleksander Yehoshua Levinson, in his sefer K’Ayal Ta’Arog, explains this transition as follows.

Sefer Shmos, the book of Exodus, crystalizes the Jewish people into a nation. The Jews as a family traveled south to Egypt with seventy souls and left 430 years later with hundreds of thousands (approximately three million including older men, women and children). There are three major events or themes we read about in Shmos: the exodus from Egypt, receiving of the Torah, and the building of the Mishkan - the portable sanctuary. Each one of these major components is wrought with trouble and difficulty which are difficult to comprehend. The first scenario occurs when the Jews left Mitzrayim after years of hardship and slavery. They have the audacity to complain and declare in Bamidbar 14:4 “Nitna Rosh V’Nashuva Mitzrayma.” “Let’s appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt.” The second occurs immediately after the Jewish people receive the Torah. They turn to Aharon asking him to make them a Golden calf. To add insult to injury, they declare in Shmos 32:4 “Eileh Elohechaz Yisrael Asher Hotziacha MeiEretz Mitzrayim.” “This is the God of Israel that took us out from the land of Egypt.” The third case takes place when the Jewish people build a Mishkan where the service to Hashem takes form and is clear. Nevertheless, the individual is left wondering about his own personal service and connection to God. The common thread in all three of these events is feeling the loss of personal identity as they grow into a nation. The Jewish people leaving enmasse, receiving the Torah, receiving the laws of our nationality and religion coupled with the mechanism of the Mishkan combine to demonstrate how we serve God as a people on the national level.

In Sefer Bereishis it was all about the individual merits - those of Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and their wives. It was those personalities and the twelve sons of Yaakov, the Shvatim, that gave character and quality to each individual Jew. In Shmos we see the role of leaders in Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, each of whom instill a sense of looking towards and following our leaders. Leaders are necessary to command and direct large groups of people; smaller groups trailblaze on their own. Moshe and Aharon, in their respective roles, imparted and communicated to all future leaders of the Jewish people how to guide the nation as a group while appreciating everyone’s personal identity. The flip side is for every individual to maintain his/her individuality and unique physical and spiritual make-up while at the same time humble themselves to the Tzibur, the community or congregation. As important as it is for every person to know who they are and where they stand as Yechidim/individuals, it is equally if not more important to recognize their role and service to the Klal, to the general group. Sefer Shmos takes the faith and Emunah of the individual and nurtures it onto the national field.

In order for the Jewish people togrow from a small-time family to a nation of magnitude and force in the world, numbers were required. It was necessary to ‘hire’ more people in order to get the attention from their neighbors in demonstrating the we’re no longer a small family of individuals, but rather we are becoming an emerging company that will lead the world. L’Havdil (to make a separation between the holy and the mundane) Haadosh Baruch Hu the CEO of the Jewish company has the Jewish women giving birth “Paru VaYishritzu” Shisha B’Keres Echad, six children at a time; some Midrashim multiply that by ten! Hashem said we need to turn this little family business of seventy into a major corporation and “hired” hundreds of thousands through the birthing system. This caught the attention of Pharoah, who feared his country would be taken over and therefore systematically tried to reduce them.

Chazal, the Rabbis, teach us “B’Rov Am Hadras Melech” - with a multitude of people it creates a greater honor for the King. It isn’t easy to forego my individuality and my personal interests. It takes a great person to put his personal interests aside for the betterment of the Klal.
 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayigash/Vayechi - A Complete Refuah Sheleimah                    10 Teves 5778

12/28/2017 02:10:44 PM

Dec28

This Dvar Torah should be a zchus for a Refuah Sheleima L’Chol Cholei Yisrael 

‘Tis the season when many people get sick. Over the past few weeks there hasn’t been a household where at least one member was not sick from the usual winter ailments. At that point, it doesn’t take much for the cough, cold, or influenza to sweep through the house and systematically take on every member. Parents have expressed to me that their only hope is that once it made its rounds it will leave and the cycle won’t start again, hitting the family a second time. During these “light” kinds of sicknesses everyone in the family may go through a little inconvenience. Maybe a child sharing a room will have to sleep someplace else to avoid catching something from the sick sibling. Perhaps a parent will have to administer medication, prepare a special diet for the time being, and even take off from work. Generally speaking, the inconveniences and small changes are tolerable and don’t create long-term effects on any one as this is part of the usual sicknesses with which families must contend. We often wish a person a speedy recovery or refuah sheleimah which is loosely translated as have a “complete healing”. Whether it means to quickly get better or to have a complete recovery, the main point is to wish the individual better health. I would like to suggest another definition of refuah sheleimah.  

If I may at this point, speak/write about a very sensitive and critical set of circumstances that Jewish families are facing. Many of societal issues that directly impact the Jewish family crosses over to all segments of the Jewish world, whether chasidish, litvish, yeshivish, modern orthodox, and, I would presume to a degree, even conservative and reform Judaism. I am writing this piece to bring an awareness of how devastating illness can be that it wreaks havoc not only on the patient but on the entire the family as well. I write with trepidation in mentioning the hardships families must endure when a family member is facing a life or death illness R”L (Rachmana Litzlan - may God save us) and or undergoing treatments that will hopefully provide extended life. But an even greater challenge to a family is when one member is challenged with a severe psychological disorder. Mental health issues are not only paralyzing for the patient; they are also debilitating for the other children, parents and even the grandparents. There are some subtle and some non-subtle effects on a family that manifest itself differently to each family member.

Dealing with mental health issues raises stress levels to their limits. When children are stressed out, they may act out in school or fall behind in their work;  their minds are pre-occupied with many crucial, potentially life-altering changes around them. Older children, adults, parents and even grandparents may become more irritable and have less patience for others. These behaviors may be interpreted as obnoxious, but in truth it’s the ancillary effects of the disorder attacking their loved one. Parents and spouses of a child with a mental disorder may have stains on their personal and intimate relationships. Many of the primary and essential important goals and values they’ve built up over the years seem to be shaky at best and crumbling at worst. This is where the Refuah and its co-part  Sheleimah come into play. Refuah/healing must be addressed to the patient. There is no question a complete and full (shaleim) recovery is wished for. But let us not forget that the Sheleimah component is addressed to the relatives of the patient. The idea and concept of Sheleimah is discussed in the past and coming week’s parshiot.

In this week’s Parsha Vayechi we are introduced to illness/sickness for the very first time. The Torah states in Bereishis 48:1 “VaYehi Acharei HaDevarim HaEileh, Vayomer L’Yosef Hinei Avicha Choleh, Vayikach Es Shnei Banav Imo Es Menashe V’Es Ephrayim”. “A short time after this, Joseph was told that his father was sick; Joseph went to his father, taking his two sons Menashe and Ephrayim with him.”  The Midrash Rabbah chapter 65 teaches us from the beginning of Bereishis until now the word Choli/Sick is not mentioned. It was Yaakov Avinu who asked Hashem to bring illness to the world instead of someone just dying. Yaakov had to ask Hashem as a show of mercy to bring illness so that a person could put his affairs in order. Primarily, if a person dies suddenly, he will not be at peace without first having the opportunity to make proper  arrangements among his children. Therefore, if a person has at least a few days prior to dying, he can have Yishuv HaDaas, a settling of his mind surrounding his children. Hashem agreed to Yaakov’s suggestion and declared He would start with Yaakov.  Yaakov was therefore the first one to become sick.

The root of the word Sheleimah is Shin, Lamed, Mem, which spells out shalom  - peace  - or Shaleim - complete. Even though Yaakov was sick and dying, the words wished upon him were Refuah Sheleimah, which could be interpreted as he should die while still being whole and complete. Blessing his children, giving them ultimate direction for life, put Yaakov’s mind at ease, allowing him to leave this world ‘whole’.

In last week’s parshas Vayigash we got a glimpse into the completeness or fullness of the wishes. In Bereishis 45:27 the Torah states: “Vayidabru Eilav Eis Kal Divrei Yosef Asher Diber Aleihem, Vayar Es Ha’Agalos Asher Shalach Yosef Laseis Oso VaTechi Ruach Yaakov Avihem”. “Then the brothers related all the words that Joseph had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him. The spirit of their father Yaakov was then revived”. Yaakov was emotionally sick over the discord that existed among his sons. Having now heard directly from his sons the entire episode and its conclusion, he felt relieved. Yaakov never fully accepted the notion that Yosef was actually dead. He knew Yosef wasn’t physically dead, but still suffered an emotional death due to being isolated from the rest of the family. For twenty-two years Yaakov felt his family was broken, fractured by the disdain shown by the brothers towards Yosef. With the brothers realizing Yosef’s true intentions, they were able to look back and reconsider their breaking apart the family by selling Yosef. As Yaakov saw the wagons, it reminded him of the last thing he learned with Yosef:  the laws of Eglah Arufa. The Mitzva of Egla Arufa is when a person is found murdered between two cities. God lays the blame on the Rabbis of the closest city because they must have not provided a place to sleep and the man was forced to travel. A ceremony of decapitating a calf, an Eigel was done by a brook of water and a patch of non-tilled land. Without going into the details Yosef sent wagons  (also called agalot ), same word as calf.  This was an additional sign to Yaakov that the sons who sold Yosef held themselves accountable for their actions. The spirit that is now revived within Yaakov is the feeling of Shleimus, having his family whole once again.

We see the importance of the family holding on together and as they struggle with illness and sickness within the family they should also be the recipients of the well-wishers of a Refuah Shelimah to the patient and the entire family. We hope and pray for the Refuah / healing to the ill patient and a Sheleima to the bringing back of wholesomeness to the extended family.                    

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mikeitz - The Hidden Miracle of Chanukah                                 27 Kislev 5778

12/15/2017 12:32:34 PM

Dec15

I was flabbergasted when shopping for some hot chocolate packets. I picked up the only one brand the store was stocking, and was shocked that it did not have a hechsher (kosher certification) on the label. I thought to myself ‘how dare (what Chutzpah) they not have a kosher endorsement. I mean, c’mon! It’s almost 2018!’ We take for granted how far the kosher food industry has come. The younger generation cannot appreciate the number of kosher products available today throughout the world. There are always going to be some challenges for some who keep Cholov Yisroel, or Pas Yisroel, etc. But on the whole there has never been so much convenience for the Jewish belly.

There are certain signs which indicate that we are living through prosperous times. An example is the number of pets that people own today. Owning a pet in my generation was a luxury, but has become something standard in today’s times. Due to the fact we are living richer lives we can afford the ‘extras’ in life, such as pets. This is true for the non-Jewish world. How much more so for the Jewish and religious Jewish world. A much larger sign of prosperity has blossomed in the last few years in the kosher food industry, particularly in fresh ready-made foods. I am not referring to restaurants, but rather to the number of take-out food establishments both in Eretz Yisrael and in the larger metropolitan cities in the U.S. which house a great proportion of the Jewish people. In my day, the take home food stores had the basics; chicken, kugel, deli and coleslaw. Today, not only can you buy different soups but even the noodles that go into the soup. Twenty-five different kinds of salads are complimented by eighteen different kinds of dips. Huge wine and high-end whiskeys that only increase our appetites for the array of meats and newly-discovered roasts that we never had before. This is all topped off by sushi stations located in all kosher supermarkets, in addition to, of course, baby-sitting available while shopping. All of this, of course, can be delivered to your doorstep with a few clicks from your smart phone. I am not going to even speak about the opulent smorgasbords and lavish weddings that are just a bit over the top. This entire description isn’t to make your mouth water but rather to depict what good fortune this has turned out to be for the Jewish people.

The Torah is very clear that fortune often leads to forgetting about God. These warnings are mentioned in the Shema and later in Devarim when Hashem warns the Jewish people that if you get fat and you forget Hashem, you will be kicked out of the land. In my humble opinion, part of this phenomenon is the desire and striving for Jews to want to be like the other nations of the world. This just about summarizes the entire story of how Chanukah came to be. When many Jews wanted to become like the Assyrian-Greeks, anti-Semitism started to perk its ugly face. The Hebrew term Misyavnim, is taken from the root Yavan, meaning Greek,. The letters of Yvan are Yud, Vav, and Final Nun. Each letter is a little longer than the previous one, indicating the small deviation away from Hashem. It then continues to stretch further and further out of range from where God allows us to be.

Hashem recognizes that man lives within a range, and as we stay in that range we will be able to remain close to Hashem. This is symbolized in the Halacha of the placement of the Chanukiyah. One should not place the menorah lower than three tefachim (A tefach is approximately 3-4 inches) and preferably not higher than ten tefachim. Putting the menorah higher is acceptable up until twenty amos, which is approximately forty feet high. The reason it can’t be lower than three tefachim is because it would be considered on the ground - which is a disgrace for the menorah. The height of ten tefachim creates a separate halachik domain. The Rabbis tell us that this is man’s domain, and God typically doesn’t enter that airspace. The Chernobyl Rebbe, in his sefer Meor Eynayim, writes that when it came time to save the Jews during the story of Chanukah, He – God - lowered Himself to be within the ten tefachim. Hashem wanted to be close to His people to bring them back and return. This came about through the shemen/oil which represents wisdom. It is through the light of the Torah that teaches a person how to serve Hashem with knowledge and intellect.

Every year we light the menorah and God hopes that it is through the light that a person will see the light of the Torah which is what the oil represents. As Hashem comes down within the ten tefachim, He becomes more visible; He wants to be close to us. Once Hashem is within the ten tefachim, He then reaches down to straighten the wicks, which represent the straightening out of the Jew, bringing him back to God. It is interesting to note there are a few places in the Torah which reveal that the cure of the punishment comes from itself. Meaning, what was it that lured the Jew away from Hashem? It was the prosperity or the fatness of the land. The word for ‘fat’ is Shamein which is the same root word as Shemen or oil. It is that which drives us away from Hashem and has the same strength to bring us back to Him. It is only a matter of substituting a few vowels and the light produced from the oil which will illuminate the truth for us and help us to understand that we grew fat for nothing. Prosperity by itself is not bad; this major issue is for us to understand that what we do with the wealth and how we behave with this new wealth is critical.

This message is clearly seen in Yosef’s wisdom in planning for the challenging times that lay ahead. There was tremendous blessing in Egypt for a few years which only Yosef, with great intellect, could see, guiding him to provide for the need to save for the bad years to come. He, Yosef, did not misuse and or abuse the blessing of plenty that Egypt provided. Rather, he wisely saved for the lean years. The bracha for all of us this Chanukah is to become wise through the light of the menorah and to get closer to Hashem with the light of Torah and not frivolously going further away through the very same fatness.

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeishev - Who Am I & Who Should I Be?                                                   20 Kislev 5778

12/08/2017 09:11:26 AM

Dec8

A few weeks ago, I was in the check-out line  at Ralphs,  kibitzing with the cashier.  I happen to know most of the older cashiers, having shopped there many years. Many service people wear name tags, and at that moment the cashier at Ralphs was looking for hers. As she was looking, I thought to myself, ‘who’s to know  that these are their real names; maybe they just wear fake names’. She then explained that she was looking for her spare name tag, explaining  that they usually have a few of them. I then said to her, ”Why don’t you just take someone else’s name tag?” (Are the customers going to know the difference?) She then replied, “I don’t want to be anybody else; I want to be me!”

I found her response to be extraordinarily deep on many levels.  In society, and particularly with regard to children, there is an emphasis through Hollywood and sports to become someone whom we are not. Children grow up idolizing others and tend to be harmed by it if they don’t grow out of it by the time they are teenagers. It is critical for parents to encourage their children to be themselves. People do better in life when things are real,  not fake. Living in San Diego in a warm climate creates an environment which  downplays the non-Jewish holidays. I was reminded of this recently while visiting the East Coast, seeing the outlandish displays of lights and holiday paraphernalia strewn over trees, houses, and lawns. These are for the most part intelligent, bright, successful people who year after year continue to live a life and celebrate with things they know are made up and false. To make matters worse, they continue with this façade, transmitting it to their children as if it were true. I wonder when and what the reaction of children is when they realize it is all made up? Perhaps some realize this and re-evaluate religion while others may live their entire lives knowing the truth but living a lie.

Putting religion aside, living a life that we don’t believe in could be very painful and sorrowful. More importantly, this situation also applies to the potential that a person is capable of reaching in life yet chooses not to. If one looks at great, successful, righteous people, we typically reason that they reached their potential because they had it within them to do so, while the wicked villains of history did not. The fact is that every evil leader, tyrant, or wicked ruler had the potential to use their strengths for good but chose not to. We see this with two great leaders from the Torah, specifically two men who really had the same potential: Yaakov and his twin brother Eisav.

It is this in week’s Parsha Vayeishev that we don’t hear about Yakov and Eisav together until the end of Sefer Bereishis. From the time they were conceived, we read about them in every Parsha and now take a break until they are re-united in death. The meeting and parting in last week’s parsha reveals a great deal about the potential personality of Eisav. In Bereishis 33:4 the Torah states: “Vayaratz Eisav Likraso Vayichabkeihu, VaYipole Al Tzavarav VaYishakeihu, VaYivku”. And Esau ran to greet Yakov and he hugged him, and he fell on his neck and he kissed him, and they cried. Most commentators explain the unique dots placed over the word ‘and he kissed him’. Last week I heard Rabbi Asher Brander quoting the Netzi’v (Rav Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) in his commentary Haamek Davar. The Netzi’v explains the implication of why both Eisav and Yakov cried. The fact that both Eisav and Yakov cried comes to teach us that not only did Eisav have an excitement about meeting with Yakov, but Yakov also had his feelings of love for his brother aroused as well. Not only was Eisav trying to show a love for Yakov, but Yakov cried out of love for his brother Eisav. The love which Yakov cried over was for the physical emotion that he had for his twin brother. More importantly, Yakov cried over an emotional and intellectual reason…. the potential of his brother. There is no question that Yakov and Eisav, despite being twins, had stark differences between them - Yakov sat and learned while Eisav hunted. Yakov used his mind for intellectual pursuits while Eisav chose to use his body for physical pursuits. Yakov used his intellectual capacity to do good, while Eisav used his physical capacity to do evil. Yakov cried because Eisav potentially could have used his physical ability to also do good. Perhaps Eisav himself realized and appreciated Yakov for whom and what he represented but could not live that lifestyle. Rather, he chose to be someone else,  to use his strengths for evil and not for good. He too cries over his own potential,  bemoaning the fact he didn’t develop properly, using his body and not his mind.

The Netzi’v continues, using this as a spring board for all future generations. When the children and offspring of Eisav have a pure, spiritual awakening to recognize the greatness of the Jewish people, then we, the Jewish people, will in turn have strong brotherly feelings toward Eisav, because he is our brother. The great Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi demonstrated this love towards Antoninus (a Roman leader descended from Eisav) as he acknowledged the greatness of Hashem and the Jewish people. Ironically, at the end of Eisav’s life, in a remarkable turn of events, he shows that it is the intellect and knowledge of Hashem and Torah which should have been the way he lived his life. Fast forward to the end of Bereishis in Parshas Vayechi -  after Yakov dies he is brought to the MeAras Hamachpela for burial. Eisav shows up and claims Yakov buried Leah there and used up his spot, therefore the remaining grave should belong to him, Eisav. An argument ensues between Yakov’s children and Eisav, and need for Naphtali (who is swift) to quickly go back to Egypt and retrieve the deed and proof of purchase that Yakov would have the remaining spot. Chushim, the son of Dan, who was deaf, didn’t understand what the confusion was and concluded that Eisav was holding up the burial of his grandfather. At that, Chushim pulled out a sword and cut off Eisav’s head and it rolled into the cave, coming to rest at Yakov’s feet.

Yakov and Eisav re-united, born as twins and buried close to each other, but at the end it was only the intellectual part of Eisav, his head, that showed his regret for living a life of futility and coming to the realization a bit late, but nevertheless showing us where his head wanted to be. That is why Yakov cried over and for him. Let us recognize who we are now and not regret becoming someone else. This illustrates one of the major lessons we take from Chanukah as some Jews became Misyavnim, like the Greeks, not remaining who they were and who they could have grown to become.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayishlach - It's Night & Day                12 Kislev 5778

11/30/2017 09:52:51 AM

Nov30

My grandfather, A”H, came to the United States from Russia in 1911 and soon after fought in WWI for his new country. Both my parents were born in the US. We were instilled with a sense of Hakaras Hatov / gratitude for the freedom and liberty that we enjoyed as Jews living in a guest homeland. As a young boy, I remember each morning pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. In  summer camp we lined up during flag raising and lowering every day.

Many Shuls across America have flags displayed somewhere in or on the property. A few years ago, Beth Jacob purchased a few large American flags to put out on Independence, Memorial, and Veteran’s day. I have one of our workers prominently place the flags along the fence on College Avenue to display our patriotism serving as a sign to the Jews of the community and to the gentile community at large that we are proud Americans living in this country. We put the flags out over the weekend and usually leave them up for a few more days into the week. A few weeks ago, I received a forwarded text from a member from a neighbor of his. The text read as follows: “Hey, tell someone at Beth Jacob that it’s disrespectful to have US flags out on the fence without lighting at night. But I did think it was nice to have them up for the Veteran’s Day weekend.” Sure enough, I checked to see if there is some rule regarding flag display…and…. Of course!  There is flag etiquette! According to the US Flag Code, all American flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset every day. Lowering the flag at night is an ultimate sign of respect for Old Glory. But, like many rules, there is an exception. You can keep your flag flying for 24-hours so long as it is properly illuminated during all hours of darkness. There is no rhyme or reason provided as to why the flag if flown at night should be illuminated.

Apparently, nighttime, a period of darkness, has some negative vibes. There are many many places in the Talmud which mention the dangers of travelling at night - particularly alone. In this week’s Parsha Vayishlach we read a very short story that mentions the reality of night time. The Torah states in Bereishis 35:8 “VaTamas Devorah Meinekes Rivka VaTikaver MiTachas L’Beit El Tachas HaAlon, Vayikra Shmo Alon Bachus”: “Rebecca’s nurse Deborah died, and she was buried in the valley of Beth El, under the oak. The place was named Weeping Oak”.  Rashi brings down the Midrash Rabba 81:5 which explains that even before Yakov finished mourning for Devorah, his mother Rivka died. This is supported by the explanation a few verses later where it states that God blessed Yakov. The bracha with which Hashem blessed him was Birkas Aveilim, a blessing to comfort mourners as he, Yakov, was informed of his mother’s passing. But why would we mention Devorah’s passing and not say anything when his mother Rivka died? The word ‘Alon’ in Greek means ‘alone’, signifying ‘desolate’ or ‘solitary’.  Rivka was buried in the middle of the night, so that no one should be able to curse her and say: “it was from her womb that the wicked Eisav emerged”. Therefore, the Torah did not even want to announce the passing of Rivka because it may have drawn out negative commentaries.

You may have read something earlier and asked yourself, ‘Why did Yakov mourn for Devorah, the nursemaid of Rivka?’ The Midrash informs us of the identity of Devorah and the significance of the Torah’s mentioning her death. The reason Yakov mourned her (Devorah) was because she was Rivka’s mother. Another noteworthy point on the recording of Devora can be seen in contrast with another death and burial, that of Rochel Immeinu. In Bereishis 35:19,20 the Torah states: “VaTamas Rochel, VaTikaver B’Derech Ephrata, Hee Beit Lechem. VaYatzeiv Yaakov Matzeva Al ‘Vurasa, Hee Matzeves K’Vuras Rochel Ad HaYom”.- “Rachel dies and was buried on the road to Ephrat, now known as Beis Lechem. And Jacob set up a monument over her grave. This is the marker of Rachel’s grave until today.” Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his sefer Kol Ram on Chumash, points out the variance between the deaths of Devorah and Rochel: After mentioning the death of Devorah, the Torah mentions some type of eulogy. With regard to Rochel, however, it mentions the idea of burial. There is no question that Yakov also eulogized Rochel, but the prime importance was the burial. Devorah’s final resting place was named (Alon Bachut) after the eulogy. Rav Moshe explains that there are many great people who pass away who are not well known; their loss is only felt after listening to the eulogy. It is through the Hesped/eulogy that the living are able to get a glimpse or an insight as to who and how great this person (who they didn’t know) was and to begin to appreciate the void which has been left as a result. It is the eulogy that informs us of who this person was. Perhaps that same idea applies here;  we hear very little about Devora but learn about her through her eulogy. The result of the eulogy was the naming of that place ‘Bachut’ which means to cry. It was necessary to cry over her upon hearing all these things that they did not know about her. Night is a time of darkness and the unknown.  It is only with daylight, morning, when things are revealed. We do not know or understand when in darkness. So too, the eulogy sheds light as to who the person was and as a result we can recognize the greatness of Devorah. She was a great woman and an integral extension of Yaakov’s house.

There is no mention of crying at the death of Rochel. Nevertheless, we are sure that people and her family cried over her death;  it was not necessary for the Torah to mention it. Rochel was the Akeres HaBayis, the mainstay of the home. She was one of the four foremothers and the closest to Yakov. Since she is well-known, the Torah need not mention the people crying over her. Therefore, the verse states she was buried immediately, and the place is mentioned so that her children would have a place to go to pray. 

Death, darkness, night and the flag all seem to share some commonality. Just as the eulogy of someone who was in the dark becomes illuminated through speaking of their accomplishments and values, so too the flag at night must be lit up as well. There are a few customs regarding the flag, particularly around death. I see the irony in the selection of this dvar Torah taken from Rav Moshe. Here is a small fascinating tidbit about Reb Moshe Feinstein. On the night of Taanis Esther, 5746 (1986), R’ Moshe was niftar. The levaya on Taanis Esther morning in New York City was like none that New York had never seen; about one hundred and fifty thousand people accompanied R’ Moshe on this step of his final journey. Even the American flag on the East Side was flown at half-mast as the non-Jews’ sign of mourning that the leader of the Jews had died.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeitzay - Who Knows Best?                6 Kislev 5778

11/24/2017 11:06:05 AM

Nov24

The beginning of my Rabbinic career was put on hold due to the fact I could not find a pulpit that suited me and my family. There were a few opportunities but some of the places that wanted me I did not want, and a few places that I wanted did not want me! Because both my wife and I were both raised in New York in predominantly religious neighborhoods, we decided to take teaching positions in a small, out-of-town community which could benefit from what we had to offer.

 We taught Judaic studies from grades three to eight. I taught third grade Chumash, specifically the book of Bereishis. Bereishis, like the other four books of the Torah, have other names, in this case the first book is also known as Sefer Ha’Avos - the Book of the Fathers. We began with Lech L’Cha and discussed the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. I taught them that our forefathers were Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov while our foremothers were Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah. One of my innocent third grade eight-year-old students piped up and asked the following question: ”Why are the patriarchs called the ‘four fathers’ when there are only three of them?” I must have repeated myself a hundred times, but this child refused to accept and understand the difference between the forefathers and the four fathers. Just as he finally gave in, we discussed the matriarchs and then again, he piped up and said, “You see, we call them the foremothers because there are four of them!” At that point I just felt defeated and gave up and said, “Fine. You can call them the threefathers.”

In reality, we don’t usually see the matriarchs referred to as the foremothers. The reason is obvious. Bilhah and Zilpah were the mothers of four of the twelve tribes. The formation of the Jewish people was not limited to the main wives of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov but included their maid servants who were given to Yakov by Lavan. In this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay after Rochel realized she could not conceive, the passuk states in Bereishis 30:4: “VaTiten Lo Es Bilhah Shifchasa L’Isha, Vayavo Eileha Yakov”: “She (Rochel) gave him her handmaid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob came to her.” A few verses later in 30:9 a similar situation occurs with Leah giving Zilpah, her maidservant,  to Yakov as a wife, and she, too, has two children, like Bilhah. Despite the explanation that there were more than four mothers responsible for the creation of the nation, we don’t automatically consider Bilhah and Zilpah as part of the matriarch coalition as evidenced by the sons of Leah considering their children second class.

I would like to share an idea of why we don’t view the total group as the foremothers. At the end of this week’s Parsha, we witness a disparity between Rochel and Leah to their mother-in-law Rivka and great-mother-in-law, Sarah. Sorah felt the situation with Yishmael in the house was not good for her son Yitzchok. She asked her husband Avraham to send Yishmael and his mother away. Avraham is reluctant and only acquiesces to his wife’s request after God tells Avraham in 21:12: ‘Kal Asher Tomar Eilecha Sorah, Shma B’Kolah’: ‘Do everything that Sarah tells you.’ Bottom line -  Arvraham, to listen to your wife! At the end of Parshas Toldos, Rivka advises and urges Yakov to flee until his brother Eisav calms down from wanting to kill him after taking the brachos.  Now, it is no secret that Yitzchok loved both Eisav and Yakov. We don’t hear Yitzchok objecting to Rivka’s sending Yakov away. Apparently, Yitzchok realizes that his wife is correct in assessing the situation, even though it would lead to Yitzchok not seeing his son for twenty-two years. As painful as that reality would become, in hindsight Yitzchok listened to his wife and followed through regarding any decision she made for the family. This was in stark difference when compared to Sorah and Rivka and Rochel and Leah. As the situation between Yakov and his father-in-law, Lavan, continued to sour, Yakov decides it’s time to leave. In Bereishis 31:4-7 it states: “Vayishlach Yaakov VaYikra L’Rachel U’L’Leah. VaYomer Lahen Ro’eh Anochi Es Pnei Avichen Ki Einenu Kitmol Shilshome. V’Ateina Y’Daten, Ki B’Kol Kochi Avaditi Es Avichen. VaAvichen Haseil Bi.” - “Yakov sent word and summoned Rachel and Leah to the field where his flock was.  ‘I saw your father’s face’, he said. ‘He is not acting the same with me as he used to. But the God of my father has been with me. “You know full well that I served your father with all my strength. Your father swindled me and changed his mind about my pay at least ten times.”Why is it necessary for Yakov to continue a diatribe about Lavan, his father-in-law, and how poorly he was treated? The answer is that he had no choice but to go on and explain himself.

Right from the start Yakov tells his wives about how their father has changed. He explained that Yakov is now wicked and an enemy, and that surely, we should flee. His wives remained silent, and therefore Yakov said to them: ‘you know full when and he swindled me,’  but Rochel and Leah did not respond to Yakov’s pleas to leave. They maintained an indifference regarding leaving or staying. Each time Yakov described how Lavan tried to dupe him, he told them about the miracles which occurred, showing how Hashem was there to protect him.. After all these descriptions of offenses and miracles fail and still they don’t take the hint that the family needs to move, Yakov reminds them about his vow that if Hashem protects him, he will leave this land and return to Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara in Nedarim says if a man does not fulfill his vows then the wife of the man dies. Immediately, when they heard about the Neder (vow) found in 31:14 Rochel and Leah answered,  basically acquiescing that would be the time to leave their father’s house and take the family back to Eretz Yisrael.

I would suggest that Rochel and Leah were still under the influence of their father Lavan and could not see what was beneficial for the family. Yakov waited and waited for his wives to act like Sorah and Rivka, taking family matters into their hands, telling to their husband to leave. But this kind of bravery was delayed and stunted while in Lavan’s house. It would only be when they finally leave that they would fill the shoes of Rivka and Sorah. Rashi points out to Yakov that in this place of Lavan’s house he could not have God’s presence;  it will only happen in Eretz Yisrael. If Yakov didn’t have the Shechina, neither did Rochel and Leah.  This is why they didn’t understand the need to leave.    

It is not ‘father knows best’ or ‘mother knows best’, rather it’s the one who has the Shechina resting upon himself or herself who knows best!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Toldos - Get Things Flowing Again      28  MarCheshvan 5778

11/17/2017 12:43:13 PM

Nov17

Parshas Toldos – Get things Flowing Again

What can Google and YouTube possibly have to do with my Keurig machine, toilet bowl, refrigerator water dispenser and my ear canal? What can my coffee machine, refrigerator, toilet and ear canal possibly have in common? The commonalities are the problems and the solutions. Google is notorious as some other search engines to find answers to almost any question we have. When things break or are not working properly I type in a few keys words and like magic a lot of good (and sometimes not so good) information comes up. Very often tutorials and YouTube videos are available to trouble shoot and give a detailed step by step demonstration in how to fix almost any problem.

One day my Keurig coffee machine stopped working and only learned later that the calcium buildup can stop up the tube and flow of water. Last week the water dispenser from my refrigerator went dry. I heard the clicking noise as if it engaged but no water came out. My job in the house is to unclog stuffed toilets with a plunger, but what happens when I’m not home? Finally, you may have heard about my ear wax and how my ear canals were also blocked. Three out of the four items mentioned were fixed and cleared through information I got off a google search. To clear the Keurig machine flow, you must put vinegar in the water container and keep on running cycles through until the calcium breaks down. Apparently, the water line in the fridge froze due to the ice flapper not working properly by not closing and sealing. That resulted in an ice buildup that had the ice laying right on top of the water line causing it to freeze. The diagnosis and remedy were to remove the ice, take a blow dryer and warm the area where the ice buildup was and warm the outside of the water line. Within five minutes the ice started to melt, water started dripping and eventually the water flow was restored. The other day I mentioned the water issue I had to a friend, and they told me how they learned to unclog a stuffed toilet. If you find yourself plunger less squirt generous amounts of dish soap or shampoo into the clogged toilet. ...then add a gallon of very hot (but not boiling) water to the bowl. Wait a few minutes and watch — the water should break up the toilet paper, and the soap should help it slide down the pipe. There are several ways to unplug your ears. I chose the simple method of flushing it out with warm water. As the water softens the wax t breaks up and b tilting your head it eventually falls out. 

There are many different things in life that need to remain free of debris and things that prevent the proper flow of water and air. Situations do occur when the closing or stopping up a pipe is necessary. The city tries its best to repair and fill in all the potholes and repair broken lines. An effective method of ridding a beehive is to fill it with cement and seal it off. Besides nature filling an opening or a hole, another reason something may get clogged or stopped up is due to human negligence and laziness. Such as in the case with the wells that were dug by Avraham’s servants and filled by the Plishtim. This is not just a story but rather a deep insight and meaning into the flow within each and every one of us.

In this week’s Parshas Toldos the Torah states in Bereishis 26:15 “V’Chal HaB’Eiros Asher Chafru Avdei Aviv Bimei Avraham Aviv, Sitmum PlishtimVaY’Malum Aufar”. “They plugged up all the wells that his father’s servants had dug while Avraham was still alive, and they filled them with earth”. Then in 26:18 the verse states “Vayashav Yitzchok Vayachpor Es B’Eiros HaMayim Asher Chafru Bimei Avraham Aviv Vayisatmum Plishtim …” “Yitzchok re-dug the wells that had been dug in the days f his father Avraham, which had been plugged up by the Philistines after Avraham’s death”. The great Chasidic master Reb Avraham from Sachotchov writes in his sefer Shem Mishmuel about the significance of these wells. He quotes the words of the Chovos Halevavos (Duties of the Heart). The verse in Mishlei 20:5 states: “Mayim Amukim Eitzah B’Lev Ish, V’Ish Tevuna Yidlena”. “Counsel is like deep water in the heart of man; and the man of understanding will draw them forth”. The Shem Mishmuel explains the verse as follows: The ‘deep waters’ are there but are covered over and buried in the belly of the ground. ‘The man of understanding’ is the one who comes and removes the cover off the waters and ‘will draw them out’. So too the ‘counsel in the heart of man’ is there, in the heart and brain of every man. The only things necessary to reach the heart and counsel is just remove the material that is covering and blocking man’s ability to go forth and thrive.

Yitzchok is trying to convey this concept to his children Am Yisrael. When Yitzchok told his shepherds and workers to dig up the wells that were covered over by Avimelech’s servants he was sending a clear message. This was the influence and task of Yitzchok for the rest of his life. Yitzchok became the symbol and hint to Klal Yisrael that unnecessary material must be removed to allow a healthy body. Spiritually speaking, the thickness and heaviness of our daily lives should not cover over the good understanding of life. The influences of life and the secular world around us should not weigh in over the understanding of God and His ways of the Torah.

Yitzchok then sent his workers to dig in a valley close by. Lo and behold they discovered a well of fresh living water. A second hint from our forefather Yitzchok is if we get bogged down with something covering over our heart which is the ability to breath the air of Torah, go and find another source to give you strength. The B’er Mayim Chaim was a living well representing the life of the Torah. The Torah is a living document that must be dusted off and cleared from the debris and garbage that the world tries to cover over.

Yitzchok’s battle with Avimelech over the wells is our struggle today. The well springs of Torah are constantly being plugged up by either the outside world or even from within the Jewish world who is influenced b the society we live in. Our battle is the constant uncovering and removing of the trash and dirt that is stopping up the flow of spirituality. With proper maintenance and we can attain a free flowing uninhibited stream of spirituality which in turn will draw forth inspiration to all around.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Chayei Sorah - Huh? What Did You Say?                       21 Cheshvan 5778

11/10/2017 08:32:37 AM

Nov10

Ever hear of Cerumen Impaction? Well, you may not have heard of it even if you have it, because it affects your hearing! This impaction takes place in the ear canal which produces a waxy oil called cerumen, more commonly known as earwax. . When you clean your ears, you can accidentally push the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Wax buildup is a common reason for temporary hearing loss.

Earwax is a yellowish, waxy material that is produced by the sebaceous gland in the ear canal inside the ear. It lubricates, cleans, and protects the lining of the ear canal by repelling water, trapping dirt, and making sure insects, fungi, and bacteria do not get through and harm the eardrum. Earwax consists mainly of shed layers of skin. It’s slightly acidic and has antibacterial properties. Without earwax, the ear canal would become extremely dry, waterlogged, and infected.

As with most things in life, too little or even too much of a good thing can be harmful. I am the one who falls into the category of having too much or too little of something good, in this case it’s too much. An excessive accumulation of earwax, especially when it is impacted, can lead to a blocked ear. I’ve had this condition before and, so I knew immediately when it occurred. I rubbed my ear and before I knew it I felt this subtle change very much like being underwater or inside an airplane. A blocked ear can be painful and can affect hearing. In my case it didn’t hurt, but I had difficulty in hearing. When earwax build-up hardens and blocks the ear canal, it forms a plug, or blockage. An ear that is blocked due to earwax may lead to a host of other issues and conditions (See Below). My discomfort came into play by fidgeting with my ear lobe trying to dislodge the wax. I didn’t want to tell people about it, therefore when I was speaking to someone (particularly during Kiddush) I turned slightly sideways so that my healthy ear was angled directly in front of the speaker. I can only imagine the life of people who have permanent hearing loss and the challenges they must go through.

Through this short ordeal I came to appreciate the difference between two seemingly similar but in actuality, very different words: hearing and listening. Those who have no hearing impairment can sometimes get by just by hearing without actually listening. A person who has to cope with any level of hearing impairment, on the other hand, must listen, focus, intensely, must concentrate fully in order to process what he is struggling to hear. Parenthetically, this idea may be applied to many areas of life. When we ae healthy we can get by without putting in one hundred percent effort, but if we are handicapped in any capacity, much effort needs to be spent to make up for that which we are missing. This notion is clearly evident throughout the Torah, but acutely so in this week’s reading.

In this week’s parsha Chayei Sorah, from 23:6 through 23:16 the words “to hear” or “to listen” are said no less than six times. The word ‘Shma’ is loosely translated as ‘hear,’ as in Shma Yirael - Hear O’ Israel. In this section the word ‘Sh’mauni’, translated as ‘listen,’ is used over and over again by Avraham when speaking to the children of Ches. In Bereishis 23:8 the Torah states: “Vayedaber Itam Laymor, Im Yeish Es Nafshechem Likbor Es Meisi Milfanai, Sh’mauni, Ufigu Li B’Ephron Ben Tzchar”: He (Avraham) spoke to them (Children of Cheis) and said, ‘If you really want to help me bury my dead and [put her out of] my presence, listen to me, and speak up for me, to Ephron, the son of Tzohar”. Avraham is not telling them ‘hear’ what he has to say but rather ‘listen’ to what I have to say. The connotation of the word hear conveys the message that the person being spoken to is only interested in the speaker in order to politely ‘hear’ him out. ”Hearing” another person’s spoken words requires no processing, no genuine input or output. The act of hearing only requires recognition of words at face value. On the other hand, the word ‘listen’ connotes not only hearing but processing, synthesizing the statement as well. Merely hearing someone speak does not have anything to do with understanding; “listening” is active, demanding that the listener pay attention to what is being said. And it leads directly to valuing the active follow-through of the listener to process the speaker’s words. This interpretation is brought out by Rav Yakov Tzvi Mecklenburg in his sefer HaKesav V’Hakabbalah. He uses the Targum Onkelos to understand and appreciate what the word listen means. Targum translates the word ‘Sh’mauni’ as Kabilu Mini - accept it from me. Avraham tells the people to” accept the story from me, believe me”, to “stick up for me against Ephron”. Avraham is asking the people to listen to him and to follow him so that he, Avraham, will acquire the Meoras HaMachpeilah, enabling him to bury Sorah. There is an extra word -‘Loo’ - used as a plea from Avraham, asking a favor from the people to listen to him, to believe him!

The word Shma - to hear- is passive; the word Sh’Mauni – listen - is active. How often it is after a parent speaks to a child, or a teacher to a student or the Rabbi to a congregant that the recipient responds to the speaker ‘I heard you already’ but then the speaker repeats it and says, “You may have heard it, but you are not listening to me.” There ae many things we hear in life, but they don’t penetrate, and we don’t end up listening to important, vital information. When the ear is clogged we hear stuff, but it takes greater effort to listen to the physical sound. We need to clean out our ears, remove the blockage so that when we hear the message we will understand it and listen closely, clearly to what it is saying to us.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Earache, Ear infection, Itchiness, Ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus,

A feeling of fullness in the ear

Vertigo, which is a sensation of loss of balance

Cough, due to nerve stimulation from the inside of the ear when pressure in the area is increased.

Most hearing-aid faults are believed to be caused by an excessive buildup of earwax.

Parshas Vayera - Larks vs. Owls                         14 Cheshvan 5778

11/03/2017 08:37:24 AM

Nov3

Chances are you already know whether you’re a morning person or a night person (and if you don’t, just ask your significant other). What you might not know is that social scientists use pretty specific—albeit by academic standards, pretty casual—names for these two Chrono types (i.e. circadian rhythm characteristics). “Larks” are up and at it early in the morning, and tend to hit the sack at a respectable evening hour; “owls” are most alert at night and typically turn in long after dark.

For me, the most delightful time of day is from dawn until sunrise. There is a still in the air and quiet permeates the outdoors. I find it to be the calmest time of day when I can think for a few minutes without the interruptions of a busy life. Looking back at life, it wasn’t always this way. When I was younger, I could - and did - stay up late at night and get up late morning. As I grow older, I need to go to bed earlier than I used to, but I also rise earlier in the morning than I used to. I used to work late into the night but now find myself unable to concentrate. I find that my mind is sharper in the wee hours of the morning. As a side note I sleep fewer hours through the night than I once did. I am now savoring the last few days of daylight savings time as sunrise is after seven in the morning, providing me with maximum quiet time.

This lovely early morning quietude will be be shortened this Sunday morning when we will all be greeting the return of Pacific Standard Time. All of us will now have to set our clocks back one hour, thereby making use of one more hour of natural daylight. “spring forward, fall back” is one of the little sayings used to remember which way to set our watches. We all set our clocks forward 1 hour in the spring when DST starts and lose one hour, and set our clocks back one hour when DST ends in the fall, regaining that one hour. By the way not every country in the world follows this practice; in the United States most of Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have chosen to stay on one time zone throughout the year.

Have you ever wondered when all this began? It has been over one hundred years since the switch first took place. In 1908, the town of Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada was the first location in the world to implement Day Light Savings time. On April 30, 1916, Germany became the first country in the world to make the switch to DST. While these two places were the first to adopt the concept of turning the clocks forward and backward semi-annually, the idea was actually first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784! As with most novel ideas, it took an additional 111 years before modern Daylight Savings Time was seriously suggested. In 1895, an entomologist from New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson, proposed a two-hour daylight saving shift, but his proposal was voted down. I’m going to miss that early morning transition from darkness to light, literally from night to day. Although I enjoy that time and am productive, I must admit there are times when I am not as productive as I’d like to be. I attribute this anomaly to the fact that when a person has very little available time to accomplish his goals, he tends to accomplish more than someone who has plenty of time but tends to be less productive. A primary source of this discussion is attributed to and established by Avraham Avinu.

From the end of last week’s parsha Lech Lecha to the end of this week’s parsha Vaera, we read about Avraham getting up early to do Mitzvos. In Bereishis 22:3 the Torah states: “VaYashkeim Avraham BaBoker, VaYachavosh Es Chamoro, VaYikach Es Shnei N’Arav Ito V’Es Yitzchok B’No…”. “And Avraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took his two men (Yishmael and Eliezer) with him, along with his son Isaac”. The Yadvana Rav in his commentary Shaar Bas Rabim asks the following: If the taking of Yitzchok was the primary purpose of this trip, why does it first list the two young lads and then separately state ‘and Yitzchok his son’? Shouldn’t it state, “…and Avraham took Yitzchok and two young boys with him”? The answer is that Avraham calculated his every move and planned it out to so as to achieve the best results. Avraham acted with wisdom by shielding Sarah and Yitzchok, keeping them from becoming alarmed about this trip. If Avraham had asked his wife Sarah to prepare all the necessary provisions of the trip for her son Yitzchok, wouldn’t she have asked where they were going? Wouldn’t she have understood immediately that something was up? For that matter, Yitzchok also would have become suspicious if he were the obvious center of this expedition. Therefore, Avraham told Sarah that he alone needs to travel to a far away distance to serve God. Sarah prepared clothing, food, and other essentials for her husband Avraham and for the two young servants whom he took with him. Yitzchok is not mentioned at all during the preparation. Avraham then asked Yitzchok just before leaving, ‘Perhaps you might want to come along to serve Hashem, also.” Yitzchok responded in the positive and he went along with his father. On the surface it appears that Avraham never intended to take Yitzchok, that it was more of an afterthought. This was done so that Sarah and Yitzchok would not suspect that the plan was to take him from the beginning.

Rav Meklenburg, in his work HaKesav V’Hakabbalah, derives an insight from the Gemara in Pesachim 4a, learning out from the words ‘Vayashkeim Avraham BaBoker’ and Avraham got up early in the morning. The simple understanding of the test was whether he would take his son to slaughter or not. But these words show Avraham’s zeal to perform the Mitzvos. This describes a different angle of the test; it was to see how he approached the Mitzva, how excited he was, and that he was not lazy about it. Avraham went about the process of preparing to perform the Mitzva with joy, as evident from his quickness and readiness to go do it. The ultimate interpretation of ‘getting up early’ was the planning and devising of a strategy as to how to take Yitzchok to the Akeida without him or his mother Sarah knowing about it.

Avraham wasn’t the only person in the world to be tested. One of the reasons he passed his tests was because he found the time of day to contemplate how he was going to deal with the challenges which lay ahead of him. We should savor those quiet moments in the early morning to plan our day and to think about how and what we will do to overcome the tests and challenges of our every day life.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Lech L'Cha - Kosher Cuisine                    6 Cheshvan 5778

10/26/2017 05:23:18 PM

Oct26

This Dvar Torah is L’Ilui Nishmat Mr. Al Adatto, Reb Avraham Ben Yitzchak and Luna Adatto Z”L on his 11th Yahrzeit, the 6th of Cheshvan.

Food is perhaps the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what the culture, people everywhere around the world get together to eat. I can’t speak for other religions or people, but this truism surely applies to Jews. The Jewish menu not only fuels our stomachs, it directly impacts the time of year we eat certain foods and the regions of the world from which our ancestors emigrated. Every week we look forward to eating specific foods that grace our Shabbos table. I think Jews are different than any other religion or people because throughout our history despite our centuries of exile, escaping from one country, seeking refuge in another, each region differing culturally and gastronomically, our adherence to the Mitzvos, whether Ashkenaz or Sephard, remains the same. The fact that Jewish customs and practices bear the histories of these various regions, cultures and languages of our dispersion, reflected clearly in an enormously rich collection of treasured recipes complemented by our ever-expanding taste buds sets up a clear analogy to observance of the Mitzvos. While we all customarily eat the same kinds of foods –wine, challah, meat, fish, and so on - these foods are prepared differently, depending upon the regions of the world from which our ancestors once resided.

The Shabbos table is decked with many foods that have reason to be eaten on Shabbos. The eating of fish and meat is something people try to eat at all three Shabbos meals. Wine is a staple - we make Kiddush for the meals. Usually, people will have a soup on Friday night and a cholent for Shabbos lunch. Culturally, we may be different, but the source of the kinds of foods is traditional. Ashkenazim eat gefilte fish while Sepharadim prefer other kinds of fish such as a spicy salmon. Chicken soup may be a staple for me – it is, by the way, the soup of choice among Ashkenazim - it also happens to be a favorite soup of virtually every region of the world - while others will have soups more reflective of other regions of the world. For example, Jews of Italian origin might enjoy hardy minestrone, descendants of Jews who fled Spain might enjoy a gazpacho in the summer or in the winter a hearty cozido, the Spanish version of cholent, Jews of German descent might, in addition to the traditional chicken soup, also love a potato soup, and so on. As far as cholent or Chamin or cozido goes we all know there are many different recipes and styles of cholent. (We will experience in in two weeks from now during the cholent cook-off contest). Most of the foods we eat on Shabbos have a reason attached to why we eat them. There is, however, only one food item that is directly associated with Mitzva: Challah.

The term ‘Challah’ comes from the Biblical commandment of “hafrashas challah”, which involves separating a piece of dough, and in Temple times was given to a Kohen to bake and eat himself. Now, during post-Temple times, a small piece of the challah dough is burned. We need to burn this little piece into nothingness, so that no non-Kohen will come to eat it. For the past two millennia the word challah referred only to this little piece of dough which was burned. It was only many centuries later that the loaves that were not burned took on the name “challah” amongst Ashkenazi Jews.

Rav Avraham David Wahrman, in his commentary Eishel Avraham on Shulchan Aruch in siman #260, writes that the reason we call the loaves ‘challah’ is to remind us of the mitzva to take off challah. It is noted in the sefer Hilchasa Rabsa L’Shabsa that challahs originally were called ‘burekas’ because when a woman took and separated a piece of ‘challah’ from the dough, she prayed for a blessing through the bread from an angel named ‘burekas’. The reality is that the separation of dough known as hafrashas challah is not exclusive to the dough that we make into the challah we have today. Rather, the mitzva to separate and take off a piece of dough applies to any dough one makes any day, any time, and any place. Nevertheless, the Rabbis encouraged women to specifically bake bread for the Shabbos meals thereby forcing one to fulfill a Mitzva in honor of Shabbos and the Shabbos table.

Although the mitzva of separating a piece of dough applies to both men and women, it nevertheless became a Mitzva associated with women more so than men. One might think the reason is because women do more cooking and baking so it is natural that they would do this mitzva. If I would say this was the reason, I would be attacked for stereotyping roles of women and being politically incorrect. Now, even though there are times that I don’t mind being politically incorrect, this is not a case as such. The Torah itself, with an explanation of Rashi, gives us insight as to how this all began and for whom it was begun. In Bereishis 25:67 the Torah states: “VaYivieha Yitzchok HaOhela Sarah Immo, Vayikach Es Rivka Vatehi Lo L’Isha Vaye’ehaveha, Vayinacheim Yitzchok Acharei Immo”. “And Yitzchok brought Rivka into his mother’s tent, and she became a wife to him, and Yitzchok was comforted after his mother”. Rashi quotes the famous Midrash Rabba 60:16 that miracles occurred in Sarah’s tent which dissipated when she died and returned when Rivka came along and assumed the role of matriarch for the Jewish people. The Midrash describes that as long as Sarah was alive a blessing was sent into her bread; when she died the blessing stopped. As Rivka entered Yitzchok’s life, the blessing in the bread returned. Although the focus in that context is the greatness of Rivka, we need to step back and realize that is was Sarah’s greatness to begin with which brought bracha/blessing to the dough.

Like many great women, roles of leadership and influence are camouflaged within the story, primarily to send a message of tznius/modesty, but that does not mean they didn’t influence or weren’t great in their own way. The greatness of Sarah Immeinu is highlighted in Bereishis 12:5 “Avram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all their belongings, as well as the people they had gathered”. On the words ‘V’es Hanefesh Asher Asu B’Charan’ ‘the people they had made or gathered’ Rashi explains it was the souls they had made: Avram converting the men and Sarai converting the women to believe in the one God, Hashem. Sarah is equal to Avraham and an equal partner in their forming the Jewish people. Due to the greatness of Sarah, miraculous things happened to her such as her dough being a source of blessing. A declaration of how great Sarah was is found in the Midrash Rabbah Esther 7:11: Haman’s lottery first picked a day of the month and then he tried to select a month in which it should take place. He went through every month. Each one had a reason he couldn’t do it that month until he reached the last month of Adar. The month of Cheshvan was passed over in the merit of the great Tzadeikes Sarah Immeinu passing away. Perhaps this is another reason the Challah Bake takes place during this month of Cheshvan. All of our dough should be blessed in the merit of Sarah.

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

Parshas Noach - Suggestion or Requirement: Please Read to the End              29 Tishrei 5778

10/19/2017 04:28:37 PM

Oct19

Information is either asked for or provided from another. At times, this ‘information’ is called advice. Some people are very careful about giving advice for fear it might come back to them as the blame for something going wrong causing a bad decision to be made. I recall one of my professors in college “advising” us never to give advice, at least in a therapy setting. Yet there are others who thrive on giving advice, especially unsolicited advice. Perhaps they feel it is the way to pay their debt to society by imparting their wisdom to whomever and whenever. If I were to give advice on this subject, I would have to say that not only should a person give good advice when asked, but also to proffer advice when it will, without question, benefit the receiver of this information.

An integral piece of many relationships is sharing information between each other. This is particularly true in a teaching and educational setting. Perhaps the most significant situation of teaching is raising a child. The methods of education vary and change according to the maturity and intelligence of the student. A student in this case may also be a child or anyone to whom we are imparting information. Education is not just about feeding facts and information; meaningful learning allows time for the student to develop critical thinking skills, enabling him to figure out the information by himself. Many high-level educators only lecture and do not allow or make room for self-analyzation. Anyone who has studied Jewish law recognizes different levels of fulfilling a Mitzva, at times applying the basic rule and at other times adding an additional suggestion. I would like to compare those added suggestions as advice, not only as optional but as strongly recommended. There are many examples of this type of suggestions which, in the end, may save a person from error.

Many may argue and challenge the notion about giving advice even when such advice yields benefit beyond doubt. Nevertheless, I recently reviewed a law that affects us all three times a day for the next month or so as we recite the Amida. On Shmini Ateres - the day after Sukkos - we began reciting ‘Mashiv HaRuach U’morid HaGeshem”. In Jewish law it takes a number repetitious activities to accustom oneself to the new, additional language. Therefore, Rav Yosef Karo in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 114:9 discusses a situation that for the first thirty days if a person is in doubt as to whether or not he said the new change, the Amida must be repeated. But, according to Rav Yosef Karo, if on Shmini Atzeres, a person chooses torepeat that section, including the new change, ninety times in a row then even during the first thirty days if ever in doubt he is able to rely on the fact that it was said correctly. The Chofetz Chaim in the Mishna Brura #41 quotes the Chasam Sofer who stated that it is best to recite this phrase one hundred and one times, but if it was said only ninety times it is still effective, otherwise we would be going against the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. I always viewed this law as an optional suggestion, but I now realize that perhaps the Shulchan Aruch is not merely ‘suggesting’ but rather urging us to practice this advice so as to avoid repeating the shmoneh esrei when in doubt.

I think we could see a similar idea of some advice being given but taken as an obligation! In this week’s parsha Noach we read about the destruction of the world and how Noach and family were the lone survivors. In Bereishis 6:14 the Torah states: “Asei L’cha Teivas Atzei Gofer, Kinim Ta’aseh Es HaTeiva, V’Chafarta Osa MiBayis UMichutz BaKofer”. “Make yourself an Ark of cypress wood, divide the ark into compartments and caulk the inside and outside with pitch”.

In my humble opinion the wording or directing of Hashem to Noach is merely a recommendation or a suggestion. There is no direct command that Noach should build an ark. Hashem is offering Noach some good advice: if you want to live, you should build something that can weather the storm. Hashem even offers the dimensions of the structure necessary for survival. We all know from childhood learning that this story ends well for Noach. But why? If we look ahead to the end of the chapter, Bereishis 6:22 states “Vaya’as Noach, K’chol Asher Tziva Oso Elokim, Kein Asa”. “And Noach did everything that God commanded him, he did”.

Noach took that advice, something that Hashem recommended but by no means forced Noach to do. Noach recognized the prompting of Hashem towards himself and would use it not only to save his own family but to create a scene whereby people would ask why he was building this huge vessel. Noah would tell these people about the impending doom, hoping that people would take Noach seriously and change their ways and be spared. Hopefully, these the people of the world would have taken Noach seriously and changed their ways so as to be spared. Noach took the counsel of Hashem and considered it as a commandment, not just as a ‘good thing’. The Panim Yafos expounds on this idea that Hashem said to Noach ‘Make for yourself’. When the Torah uses the word ‘L’cha’ - for you - it means for your benefit. Hashem says to Noach, if you build the Teivah it will be for your benefit, but the decision was to be totally up to Noah to decide. Later we read Noach built it and the Torah reiterates the words ‘Kein Asah,’ as if not only for his benefit but more so because he performed it as a command.

There are times when we want people to take our proposal seriously and to follow it rather than, just discarding it politely. Whether it be our employees or workers, we want them to follow the suggestion and not merely take it as a simplistic suggestion such as, “this is the way I would do it if I were you.” The point is to understand that this is the way it should be done. Raising children is a constant educational process. Sometimes we need to be very direct, and, particularly with regard to younger children, order them to do something. At other times we offer a hint, a trace, or sign to enable them to focus and make the right choice without explicit instructions from us It is not an easy task, but with carefully-worded statements we can lead the child to realize this is something good for him; he and I will do it as if my parents were commanding me to do it.

Rabbis at times give answers that are not concrete as to a yes or no. Rather, on occasion the Rabbi will sound a bit vague in answering a question. The answer is often embedded in intentional vagueness which helps the questioner to grasp and accept the direction the Rabbi was leading him to understand. The trained teacher/pupil, parent/child, Rabbi/congregant will recognize the signs of when to consider the advice as a mere suggestion and take it or leave it, or truly give the advice to grab and fulfill a command as Noach did.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech - Sensitivity of Life          23 Elul 5777 

09/14/2017 01:03:33 PM

Sep14

These last few weeks gave us close-up opportunities to witness the hand of God as well as the hand of man. The natural disasters of a severe 8.1 earthquake, the strongest to hit Mexico in a century, occurred while the hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused massive devastation which have affected the lives of millions of people in Houston, Texas and the state of Florida. Millions of Americans watched as violent winds and tumultuous rains tore apart the homes and lives of thousands of people. In the wake of these disasters, thousands of other people arrived, many travelling at their own expense from all parts of the United States, to help the hurricane victims, providing physical, emotional, spiritual and financial assistance. The outpouring of concern reached levels that saw Jews from San Diego fly to Houston, helping to bring some semblance of normalcy back into their lives. It was encouraging to see major Orthodox umbrella organizations come together, uniting and coordinating efforts on behalf of our fellow Jews. Unfortunately, at times it takes such awful disasters to bring out the best in us. Correspondingly, we occasionally lack perspective in the midst of such chaos and trauma, unwittingly saying things that may be misconstrued.

Such an occurrence took place when I happened to meet someone who lives in Florida but was in San Diego during the hurricane. In an attempt to offer him comfort during this tough time, I said, “there could be worse places to be than San Diego.” I meant only to say that he was fortunate to be in San Diego and not in the middle of a hurricane. As he passed me by he replied, “Who knows if I will even have a house to go back to; I may have lost everything.” Even though I was trying to extend comfort to him, my timing was off. Riding out the hurricane while being here in San Diego could not possibly assuage his fears. I thought about this for a few days and wanted to apologize for the incident. I waited to call at an appropriate time, when lo and behold I saw the person and seized the opportunity to ask if I could speak with him. I reviewed my feelings, pointing out how my good intentions went sour. Being the fine gentleman that he is, he immediately dismissed the entire situation and said that he did not take it that way at all. He described the extensive damage that his property sustained and related to me the stories of people who did not heed the warnings of the authorities. In most cases, reported deaths were the result of people who disregarded safety protocol and instructions. But as he got up to leave, he turned to me and said, “At least we are safe and alive.” Right then and there it hit me that during the time the hurricane was tearing across the area where his home was located, he also didn’t appreciate life because he was thinking of the monetary loss the devastation was causing. It was only later, when reality sank in, that he was able to understand and articulate that there is nothing more precious than life itself.

  1. is underscored and highlighted when speaking of death. Typically, we lament more over a person who passes away in the prime of life or when very young. This is in contrast to speaking of someone who has passed away at a ripe old age. For an individual who lived a full life we tend to describe how the person led a full life, outlived their peers, and is no longer suffering. In the case of someone who really lived a long time we may be inclined to remark, “Well, no one lives forever,” giving recognition and acceptance that it was that person’s time to go. This does not make it any easier for the grieving family, but there is some consolation on the human and physical level. Not so the case when we view life from a spiritual perspective. Regardless of the quality of life a person may live, it is, nevertheless, life! Life is to be treasured. The importance of any kind of life is underscored in the Torah.

In the second of the two sedras we read from Parshas Vayeilech of Moshe’s impending death. The Torah states in Devarim 31:14: “Vayomer Hashem el Moshe: Hein Karvu Yamecha LaMus……”. “God said to Moshe, ‘The time is coming for you to die’….”. The Medrash Chayei Moshe brought forth in the Yalkut Shimon states how difficult it was for Moshe to part from this world. Moshe pleaded with Hashem that if he could not enter the land, could Hashem at least keep him in this world; could he at least not cause him to die. Moshe said: “Master of the universe, if I can’t go into Israel, at least let me be like the animals that just graze in the field, just eating grass and vegetation, drinking a little water, but have the chance to see the world. Hashem said to Moshe: ”Rav Lach!” - “Enough! Do not speak!” Moshe asks Hashem to just leave him in this world. He asks if he could just be like a bird that flies to the four corners of the world, picking up some food here and there and at night returns to its nest. He requests of Hashem, “Let my soul be like one of them - either an animal or a bird.” Again Hashem said “Enough!” We learn from Moshe how important life is in THIS world, even if only to remain as a bird or an animal. Every living creature serves a purpose in life.

Life in this world is so precious for every one of us - much more so than the life of an animal. The Vilna Gaon cried when he felt he was dying. The people around him asked, “Why are you crying? You lived such a perfect, complete life.” The Gaon answered, “In this world, with a small coin it is possible to buy and merit many mitzvos, such as tzitzis. This is equal to all the commandments.” We learn in Pirkei Avos 4:17:‘One moment of Torah and good deeds in this world is better than the entire world to come.’ Even though at the end of the Amidah on the High Holidays it states that we would have been better off had we not been created, but now that we are here we need to deal with life. Nevertheless, we should realize that when Hashem created us it was to fulfill the purpose and goal of man. We should keep in mind that this refers to every single human being. How much more so this applies to the creation of a Jew and to those who choose to be Jewish. We have a greater purpose in life to fulfill. We must fulfill the will of God.

As the year 5777 winds down, we contemplate our participation in this world and the life we’ve been living. Was this a year that lived up to the expectations I set for myself last Rosh Hashana? This is not an exercise in guilt looking back through the rearview mirror. Rather, take time to look ahead to a potential year of life focused on accomplishing anything we set our minds to attain. Don’t ask, “Did I take advantage of life, or did life take advantage of me?” Rather ask yourself, “How will I take advantage of the precious commodity called ‘life” How will I show the purpose of life and its meaning?” Life is precious and fragile; it is worth more than anything in the world. We should all be blessed with a year and a life full of Chaim, as Moshe lived his life to its maximum until one hundred twenty years. Amen!

Parshas Ki Savo - The Curse & Blessing of the Jew             16 Elul 5777

09/07/2017 05:40:03 PM

Sep7

As many of you know, I grew up in Borough Park, which is a section in Brooklyn New York. Boro Park (as it is spelled today) is a very different place than it was when I was growing up. My family was the first Jews on our block. We were surrounded by fair and usually nice Italians. While my block was safe, that was not the case of all of the blocks near our home. At the time we moved in, private houses were owned by the Italians and the apartment buildings housed the Puerto Rican population. The one common thing the Italians shared with the Puerto Ricans was that they all disliked the Jews.

I vividly remember having to cross the street on more than one occasion to avoid a direct encounter with the ‘Goyim’ or ‘Shkutzim’, as we would often refer to them. Jogging my memory, I recall being chased a few times or at least running away after the goyim attempted to chase me or deceive me into thinking they were coming after me. Baruch Hashem, I don’t recall ever getting into an actual fist fight or getting hurt. Nevertheless, something that did happen on a regular basis was getting cursed at and being called a ‘Dirty Jew’. Forty-five years ago the language used even by the Goyim did not use expletives when cursing me out. Language was a lot cleaner; vulgarity was rarely used back then. Truth be told, it did not affect me one way or another Vis a Vis the Jew component, other than I was afraid. I was not particularly insulted and nor did I comprehend the message they were trying to send me.

Fast forward fifteen years. I remember my Rebbi telling me how he would walk wearing his tallis on Shabbos morning, hearing insults and curses from the drive-by ‘Goyim’. I asked him, “So what did you do?” He replied: “I stood up taller and realized that I have something special that they don’t have.” Jews, throughout the ages have reacted in sharply different ways to such situations, some running for cover when being cursed, others feeling unique and special, straightening up and keeping their heads high. Since those incidents, life has been relatively quiet with regard to outright anti-Semitism. Most of the time such outbursts and threats have been stifled, with only an occasional slur or slipping out of the mouths of angry protagonists.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how I get stopped by people asking me if I am Jewish/ Rabbi etc. That is enough to get me nervous about what may follow. Just last week I experienced a different kind of scare and surprise. As I was walking back from the bank, a sketchy -looking person yelled out to me, “Hey! Are you Jewish?” After I nodded in the positive he blurted out, “I am also Jewish!” I wondered at how quickly my initial sensation of fear switched to feeling delighted. I inwardly wondered whether this overt change occurred over time. Hashem did tell Avraham Avinu in Bereishis 12:3 “That I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse”. Perhaps, the gentiles realize it’s not so bad to bless the Jews; as a result they, too, might be blessed. Then again, this vignette is only a small sample of a long history whereby the liking and disliking of the Jews has come full circle many times.

In this week’s Parsha Ki Savo we read about the blessings and curses that were instructed by Moshe. In Devarim 27:15 a series of eleven generic curses, followed later in 28:15 by a description of horrific calamities which will befall the Jewish people if they stray. Many of those predictions came true and terrible things happened. On the surface and to the average person who only can see a piece of history, this appears to be bad. We are not to judge whether something was good or bad if our convictions support the notion that whatever happens is for the best. To reiterate, “the best” may not be how I may view a given situation from a myopic view. When taken globally or historically, it may turn out to be for the best. There is a comment in last week’s Torah portion that highlights this concept. In Devarim 23:6 the Torah states: “V’Lo Avah Hashem Elokecha Lishmoa El Bilaam, Vayahafoch Hashem Elokecha L’Cha Es Haklala Livracha, Ki Aheivcha Hashem Elokecha”. “Of course, God did not consent to listen to Bilaam, and God your Lord transformed the curse into a blessing for you, since God your Lord loves you”.

The Kli Yakar writes: “But God altered the curse to a blessing”. This requires explanation and understanding. How is it possible to say that the curse itself would be a blessing? Even though the blessings came from the place of curses, meaning from the substance of the words that Bilaam wanted to use in order to curse the Jewish people. How can one say the curse turned into a blessing? It is also interesting to note that the Torah mentions that only one, a single curse, was changed to a blessing. This does not refer to all the attempted curses of Bilaam, only this one. To paraphrase the Kli Yakar, the curse was the proclamation by Bilaam that the Jews would not possess any synagogues and their kingdom would not continue, and so forth. Now it is known that Hashem does not violate or change the natural array of life concerning the merits of the Jewish people except in a place where there is no other way to turn the face of the array for good. Therefore, in all the other curses of Bilaam, God needed to encroach upon that collection of curses in every way possible. However, concerning the assertion that they would not retain any Synagogues and study halls, Hashem did not want to disrupt the curse if there was a way to bring it out as a blessing. As Rashi commented: “Mishkinosecha Yisrael/your dwelling places, oh Israel” and connecting it to Eicha 4:11: “God has accomplished His fury….and He has kindled a fire in Zion,” referencing the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. That was certainly a great favor that Hashem, with His fury, would destroy the trees and stones but we would be rescued as a people and not destroyed. So, when it says Hashem turned the denunciation of Bilaam into a blessing, it indicates that the text itself which was “they would not possess synagogues” was reversed to a blessing. That they would possess no synagogues, yet the souls would be rescued and the Jewish people were spared. What Bilaam meant to state: Your goodness is that they are your dwelling places. These dwelling places are used as an exchange so that the Jewish people could be rescued and not annihilated.

There is more than meets the eyes, mouths and ears when it comes to damaging or negative speech. We should only merit the blessings of life, and if the curses and insults are hurled at us we should recognize and believe that somehow, in some way, it will all turn out to be a Bracha for Am Yisrael. Amen!

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Tetzei - Feeling At Home                   9 Elul 5777

09/01/2017 08:49:21 AM

Sep1

Next week, the official summer vacation season comes to an end on Labor Day. Here in San Diego, and particularly at Beth Jacob, it has been a busy summer with the influx of tourists and extended family guests and friends. The Grill, our summer restaurant, was a perfect complement to the minyanim we offer at our Shul from morning to night. I, along others on our staff, have frequently remarked about how the tourists we’ve all been privileged to greet and make comfortable openly spoke of the warm welcome received and the positive experiences they had here at our Shul. Many underscored their remarks by adding that this isn’t the case at other Shul’s they’ve visited.

I can certainly attest to having visited and prayed at many different Shuls throughout my life. As a pulpit Rabbi, I have become acutely aware that I feel comfortable and made to feel like a member of minyanim in some places while in other places left alone, feeling like a stranger and outsider. When I visited my parents, I davened at a local shul in Arnona. I do not want to speak disparagingly about the members or about the Shul because it did offer me a place to daven that was close by. Nevertheless, over the few years that I’ve shown up only two men greeted and befriended me. I was always made to feel welcome but never made to feel comfortable. To the opposite extreme I found the most welcoming and warm minyan in the last place you would imagine! There is a little congregation at the Vasikin (early morning) minyan at the Kotel. There are many different minyanim at the Kotel throughout the day, including the very first minyan, known as Vasikin. This group is comprised of Chasidim/Chareidim. It is organized by a fellow who runs the minyan and coordinates the logistics, timing, and the welcome to any and all people. As I arrived each morning, he ran to get me and others who came with me chairs and a shtender (lectern). At the end of davening, they serve shnaps and cake if there is a yahrzeit or sponsor. The atmosphere is completely friendly and reminds me of our Shul. Its welcome and warmth connected me to home.

When a person travels for business or even pleasure there is a sense of nervousness and fear of being out of his/her element and familiar surroundings. In my mind, I thought I learned that a traveler is considered like a poor person. I could not find the source for it, but the rationale is consistent as a traveler doesn’t have his own place to sleep, a place to establish his own meals; he can feel desperate. I will take poetic license and leap from a traveler considered being poor and connect it to the Gemara in Nedarim 64ab “Arba’a Chashuvim K’Meis: Ani, Metzora, Suma, U’Mi She’ein Lo Banim”. There are four categories of individuals who are considered dead:one who is poor, is a leper, is blind, or is childless”. Since a poor person is considered dead, then the traveler who is considered poor would share the notion of being considered like dead. Therefore, helping a traveler is as if I saved his life. Now this may be a stretch of the imagination, but to a stranger and or a traveler it gives strength and security knowing they are welcome.

If you think that being hospitable is just a nice thing to do, you are wrong! In the context I provided, being hospitable and making people feel comfortable and secure is a Mitzva of returning their lost sense of being. The traveler is at a loss; perhaps he can’t articulate or describe the exact item that is lost but that sense returns when greeted and treated as a local rather than as a stranger. Today’s typical tourist with credit cards, cash and points may not feel truly lost. Nevertheless, there are many Jews who lose their spiritual way and land in San Diego, our fair city, where we welcome these ‘lost’ souls and slowly get returned by our community. This ‘Mitzva’ is indirectly described in the Torah. Its depth of meaning can be gleaned from one of the Mitzvos in this week’s Torah portion.

In this week’s Parsha Ki Tetzei the Torah states in Devaim 22:1 “Lo Tir’eh Es Shor Achicha Oh Es Seyo Nidachim V’Hisalamta Meihem, Hasheiv T’Sheeveim L’Achicha”. If you see your brother’s ox or sheep going astray, you must not ignore them. You must return them to your brother”. The Torah then expands in 22:3 to other lost items as well. “V’chein Taaseh LaChamoro, V’chein Taaseh L’Simlaso, V’Chein Taaseh L’Chol Aveidas Achicha Asher Tovad Mimenu Um’Tzasa, Lo Suchal L’Hisaleim”. “You must do the same to a donkey, an article of clothing, or anything else that your brother loses. You find it; you must not ignore it”. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches that the ox of your brother refers to people who are compared to the animals but are nonetheless holy! We must return them to their brother, meaning to their homes, we must make them feel comfortable so that they can serve Hashem properly. This verse speaks to the righteous Jews who are commanded not to turn away from those who were pushed aside, but rather return and bring that sense of security and warmth of home back to them. The saintly Chofetz Chaim Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan in his sefer *Chomas Hadas writes that if the Torah went out of its way to show the value of animals in returning them when lost - which is of monetary value - how much more so the need to show mercy upon every Jewish soul who has strayed from the path of the Torah. *Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz writes in his sefer Madreigas Ha’Adam that the lost objects of your brother include the loss of his physical body to health issues, both physical and emotional. Finally, Rabbeinu Bachya teaches us that when the Torah says ‘do the same for your brother’s donkey’ which is even a non-kosher animal! It continues by emphasizing that we must return a lost garment that isn’t even a living creature, and concludes that this also applies to all lost items of your brother. Not only is it speaking of returning physical objects but also to doing anything to help a fellow Jew in need. That may be to remove any potential damage or to move your brother away from anything dangerous, including making him feel at ease and at home. This all is categorized under the Mitzva of V’Ahavta L’Rei’acha KaMocha: Love your neighbor as yourself.

For the past week, we have been witness to the destruction and devastation which hit Houston, Texas by Hurricane Harvey. An incredible number of different things have been lost and need to be ‘found’ - in this case to be replaced. This week we must fulfill at least three Mitzvos mentioned here. The Mitzvos of returning to our brethren that which they have lost, the negative precept of not turning away and the MItzva of showing love towards our fellow Jews. I am confident that if we send messages, e-mails, money and words of encouragement, the Almighty will see to it the need to speed up the process of everyone feeling at home once again.

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or click here or on amazon.com

*Chomas Hadas - 1 Volume, published in 1905. On the importance of a man to study Torah, and encourage others to learn. as well as the need to create groups in every city wherein a man could acquire Torah.

*Rabbi Yoseif Yoizel Horowitz was the Alter of Novardhok (1848-1920). He was the founder of the Novardhok Mussar Yeshivah Network and author of Madreigas HaAdam

 

Parshas Shoftim - My Civic Duty & The Jewish Court                 3 Elul 5777

08/24/2017 10:40:46 PM

Aug24

There are many events, experiences, and “happenings” which occur regularly throughout our lives. As I grow older, I feel that these things are approaching sooner and quicker. For example, let’s take the holiday season. Each year, as the Chaggim approach, we tend to gasp and say, “I can’t believe it’s here already!” There are similar examples in the secular calendar, and, in addition, year-to-year renewals such as registration, membership renewals, and so forth. For me, one of these annual tasks is being summoned for jury duty. When I tell people I have jury duty they are surprised and ask, “Aren’t you able to get out of it?” “Can’t a Rabbi  get out jury duty?” There are some people who don’t question me but let me know that they never go to jury duty; they simply choose not to show up.

In 2015 a local news station in San Diego ran a story with the headline  “Can You Really Go to Jail If You Ignore Your Summons for Jury Duty?” The reporters learned that thousands of San Diegans are breaking the law and getting away with it by ignoring their civic duty to serve as jurors. Many of the people interviewed agreed that not serving when called up for jury duty is unfair to those who honor their civic duty by serving on a jury when summoned to do so.   One juror, Janette Hall, when interviewed by a reporter during her lunch break at the San Diego County Courthouse stated, "I think they ought to be penalized for not showing up, because if I didn't show up, I'd be penalized.”
Hall and other jurors told reporters that jury duty is a hassle because they must miss work, fight traffic, and then fight boredom waiting in the jury lounge, but they do it because it's what all of us are supposed to do. Cindi Bartelli told reporters that many of her friends look for excuses to skip their turn in the jury box. She doesn't blame them, but she doesn't follow their example, either. "If you were on trial, I suppose you'd want to have a jury of your peers, so I just think it's the right thing to do," she added. The news team contacted San Diego County's Jury Commissioner for the numbers. Michael Roddy said the county sends out 820,000 jury summons each year. About 28 percent, or 230,000, fail to fulfill  their civic duty. Those who ignore the jury summons continue with their lives without facing any penalties.

But… aren’t I breaking the law by skipping jury duty? The simple answer is yes. The jury summons has these words printed in bold type: "FAILURE TO APPEAR WITHOUT EXCUSE OR POSTPONEMENT IS PUNISHABLE BY CONTEMPT AND/OR FINE PURSUANT TO THE CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, SECTION 209." There is a threat of punishment if the court chooses to follow through. The reason this doesn’t happen is because there are almost always enough people available to serve as jurors in San Diego County. In addition, it's expensive and time-consuming to go after jury duty scofflaws. Some other California counties are enforcing the law. In Los Angeles County the Superior Court has had to resort to penalizing people who fail to show up for jury duty because of low juror turnout.

We should keep in mind that of the seven laws of Noach, six are negative and one is positive. The one positive mitzvah is to set up a system of courts and laws. In fact, this organized court system forms a basic tenet of the world’s existence. Without law and order chaos would reign; we would not be able to focus our attention and energy on serving Hashem. Therefore, as an extension of the laws and courts the jury system is part of that same mitzva. Jews are obligated to serve when called upon to act in the best way possible.  

There are a few interesting points of note. Most of the potential jurors who showed up for jury duty with me were people ranging from middle age to senior citizens. There is a considerable amount of down time from the instruction period until being called. I found it interesting to observe how people filled the time while waiting. The majority were on their phones playing games. A few were using their laptops and tablets, perhaps doing some work. Strangely enough, some people were actually reading books;  one lady was reading something, but it wasn’t a book…. I think it was called a newspaper!

Jury officials want us to serve and – presumably - to be on time, but there is a serious shortage of parking at the court house. I had to park a few blocks away, hoping I wouldn’t get towed or ticketed. The system needs to be rectified to make it more amenable and pleasant for those who could be convinced to serve. There is a cafeteria in the courthouse and there are some vending machines in the jury lounge where the jurors congregate. Here, too, is another example of creating an atmosphere that encourages citizens to want to participate in the legal system. Unfortunately, the coffee and hot chocolate machine was out of order, and the snack machines needed to be refilled. Just because there is little or no enforcement of the code does not minimize my obligation and privilege as a citizen of this country. Despite the many obstacles that I described while attempting to fulfill my civic duty, I should nevertheless participate. Am I obligated to do so? In my humble opinion I would say flatly, “Yes, I am obligated.” Furthermore, I believe that we are all obligated. There is support and a sign leaning to this conclusion from this week’s Torah portion, Parsha Shoftim. The Torah states in Devarim 16:18 “ Shoftim V’Shotrim Titen L’cha B’Chal Sh’Arecha, Asher Hashem Elokecha Nsen L’Cha Lishvatecha, V’Shaftu Es Ha’Am Mishpat Tzedek”: “Appoint yourselves judges and police for your tribes in all your settlements that God your Lord is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people.” The Iturei Torah has a beautiful twist on these words. The judges and officers are meant L’cha, for you. A person who judges himself will always see the other person’s righteousness. When the passuk says, ”Appoint a judge for yourself” it is telling us to look inward and judge ourselves before judging others. When I judge myself, I can’t and won’t be as critical to others. I will not complain to God about what others are doing after I look clearly at myself and what I am doing.  A person who only sees the sins and faults of another person is clearly not able to see his own faults. 

There is a natural tendency to judge others without knowing their circumstances. Since we inevitably judge others, we must judge ourselves first. I cannot decide not to show up for my own judgment. I can’t skip my day in court when I am the subject being examined. I cannot make up any excuse not to show up. I have a duty to myself and to others. As we begin the month of Elul, the process of self-introspection is a key element in approaching the Almighty before the Yamim Noraim. Let’s begin the process with ourselves. Consciously look for ways to improve ourselves first before judging how others should improve. Hopefully, we will come to only judge ourselves, and in that merit Hashem will judge us favorably this coming Rosh Hashana.

  Ah Gut Shabbos       Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky          

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

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bogopulsky or bit.ly/torahwisdom

Parshas R'Ay - San Diego - America's Finest Jewish City           26 Av 5777

08/17/2017 10:50:21 PM

Aug17

San Diego is a destination city for business and pleasure throughout the year. This is not only true for the general population, but for Jews alike. Although we have Jewish tourists all year long, there are a few specific times when there is a greater influx of particularly observant Jews. We are currently in the busiest and largest invasion of Orthodox and (what the non-Jewish world identifies as) ultra-orthodox Jews to our city. I can only speak of the vacationers who frequent Beth Jacob, but I would speculate that the other Shuls in town are experiencing the same numbers of visitors.

Jews of all religious stripes come to visit San Diego throughout the year, and I want to address the feelings of Jews from the entire spectrum, particularly from the ‘Chareidi” or right-wing camp. As a disclaimer, I - Chas V’shalom/Heaven forbid - am not being critical of any of our visitors from any area, I’m just bringing out an observation. Here is a sampling of some of the questions that I receive on a regular basis: After providing the time for Shacharis, the questioning visitors will typically then ask, “What time is the latest minyan?” When it comes to food, you know those handy places to eat outside of our homes, our visitors will ask, “Where is the pizza shop?” “The dairy restaurant?” ”How about the meat restaurant?” And, here’s the real topper: “Which gas station sells cholent on Thursday nights?” When it comes to education they ask, “Are there schools and yeshivos here?”” Is there a Kollel in San Diego”? The most general question is, “What do people do here?” (Translation: like for Jewish fun?) After I inform them in the negative on most of their initial questions, there is typically a follow-up that applies to all the inquiries, mainly… “How do you survive here?!”

There is another group of older tourists who have been to other vacation destinations and aren’t as sheltered as the group I previously described. They aren’t taken aback by what may one refer to as a small amount of “Jewish materialism” such as kosher eateries, bakeries, and such. What really amazes them is that people actually live here and raise observant families. This second group knows that there are Jews who reside outside of the large, concentrated cities where most Jews seem to live. Nevertheless, they are still surprised to see religious, genuinely observant Jews living here in San Diego! Personally, I don’t know what and or why they think this way, but they do. They also ask questions which are similar to those asked by the first group, only they don’t respond in disbelief, but with genuine surprise.

The short answer to these questioning and frequently flabbergasted tourists is we do not only survive, we thrive here! It is true we may not have many places to go out to eat or have round-the-clock minyanim with cholent available 24/7. But those amenities are not what make a Jewish community. I generalize about the San Diego Jewish community, but my focus of explanation relates specifically to the Beth Jacob family. We strive to be a fairly homogenous group of Jews who come together from different places. In a larger city, there would be a natural tendency for a group to break away when they attain a critical mass. Like a large family, the children tend to branch out, exploring different areas of interest. So, too, the Jews of our community treat each other as brothers and sisters despite differences in personal areas of expertise. Everyone teaches and speaks about tolerance, but there are those who not only preach but do. We may not be reaching out to the extended Jewish population, but everyone is welcomed warmly when they enter our house. It’s the challenges that make us bond together, strengthening each other spiritually; we depend upon each other as fellow Jews and children of Hashem.

My last remark to the guests and tourists is they should not be surprised with my answer, because this is exactly what Hashem recommends from us in this week’s parsha Parshas R’Ay. The Torah states in Devarim 14:1 “Banim Atem LaHashem Elokeichem, Lo Tisgodedu V’Lo Tasimu Karcha Bein Eineichem L’Meis.” “You are children of God your Lord. Do not cut or mutilate yourselves and do not make a bald patch in the middle of your head as a sign of mourning.” The simple understanding of ‘Lo Tisgodedu’ - do not cut yourself - clearly refers to the prohibition of excess mourning and acting as the non-Jews do when addressing death and mourning. Practically and metaphorically speaking in today’s day and age is the idea of not making yourself into groups that are different from each other. A real practical application is about one minyan which holds by different practices. That is the easy way to separate. For example, having separate minyanim for those who wear tefillin on chol hamoed versus those who do not. The greatest challenge is when Jews from different socio-economic backgrounds come together, or when the rich and poor attend the same functions all year round. The spiritual challenge is maintaining a community with different Hashkafos or philosophical outlooks on Judaism and focusing on different aspects of Jewish life. This is the true beauty of a smaller Jewish community, which, perhaps because of its size gets to be a unique example of how the Jewish people are intended to be. The opposite of ‘not making groups’ is respecting people who are different and keeping them together.

The Midrash on the words ‘do not band together’ teaches us that when we don’t stand apart from each other, the first part of the verse “We are children to Hashem” comes to light. The comparison comes from Korach. The Midrash states that we are not to group ourselves together and end up arguing and separating from each other. By doing so we will create a plague among us in the same way Korach separated himself from the rest of the Jewish people. He created a cut between himself and Moshe. The irony of the Midrash using the word ‘Korcha’ making a bald spot is that the name of Korach himself lies inside this word! Rebbi Shimon Ben Yochai takes these words to a higher level by looking at the next passuk. Here Hashem calls us ‘Banim’ – children. To Hashem His Banim, His children, are incredibly endearing. Immediately after this line, once we’ve reached this level, we are now referred to as an ‘Am Kadosh’ - a Holy people. Once we earned the relationship of being a child of Hashem, we then become holy, concluding with the declaration, “U’B’Cha Bachar Hashem” – “And to you did Hashem choose. The route for the Jewish people to acquire the title of the Chosen Nation can only come when we live respectfully together, side by side, despite all our differences. Here at Beth Jacob we strive to become the Chosen by working together to accept each other for who we are. This does not mean everyone must agree with everyone else; we must respect and honor our differences, focusing on building a Torah-observant community. This is our core belief. Our Beth Jacob community should see itself as a role model for other smaller Jewish communities and ultimately for the larger communities as well. We know we will have succeeded when the tourists and visitors no longer see us as hardy pioneers somehow living in the wilderness without the trappings larger communities view as essential but rather see our community as the gold standard, living up to commitment of V’Ahavta L’Rieacha Kamocha.

 

Sun, April 22 2018 7 Iyyar 5778