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Parshas Chayei Sora - Freedom                           24 Cheshvan 5779

11/02/18 09:48:46


This Dvar Torah is dedicated to the memory of Joyce Fienberg, 75, Richard Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54, Bernice Simon, 84, Sylvan Simon, 87, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69

Of Blessed Memory who were murdered Al Kiddush Hashem.

There are many turning points in history - some subtle; others abrupt. There are changes which come over time and changes which are sudden. Last Shabbos was that abrupt and sudden change in American Jewish history. I’m not here predicting a doomsday effect. I am not saying nor implying that we should all evacuate, (although it may be a good idea) but rather to point out that life as a Jew in America continues to evolve through different phases over time, and this is now a major one. This horrific event is a different kind of terror attack, clearly defined as anti-Semitic. A Synagogue was attacked and Jews were murdered in cold blood just because they were Jewish.

I was trying to do the math, comparing September 11, 2001, which changed the face of freedom and security in these United States, to October 27, 2018, which will impact the way we live as Jews in this country. The percentage of Jews who were murdered (11) out of approximately five million Jews in America is about one fifth of the percentage of people killed on 9/11 (3000 out of three hundred million) within the total population. If the perpetrator had exercised better judgment a few minutes before committing the terror act, then a radically different outcome would have resulted. Rather than exercising better judgment, he took away our liberty as we knew it in a span of a few minutes.

There is a saying “the difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment”. This past week I appeared in court on behalf of a person who was in front of the judge to decide his fate over the next few years. My presence, along with some other community members showed the judge that he is respected in the community and could contribute to society at large. Our show of support could mean a lot. The judge wields a lot of power in his position. Within the boundaries of the laws of the land, he has the responsibility apply discretion to be lenient or stringent when judging a case before him. The inmate in question could have remained in prison based upon the facts for one more year. The judge saw the potential flower that could come from this weed and granted him his freedom. In this situation the judge used fine-tuned critical thinking skills to give back some life instead of taking it away.

When it comes to authority there are two ways an individual can take the responsibility to determine the life or future of another human being: by earned or elected responsibility or by brut force. The murderer in Pittsburgh placed himself in a position of absolute authority, determining who was to live and who was to die. As executioner, he alone, with no thought to the guaranteed rights for” life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom”..

In the previously-mentioned case, the judge, previously a lawyer, who rose to the position of judge with the consent of the people, had the power to determine who would be free and who would not. A judge is granted discretion even to change a harsh sentence to a more lenient sentence. The Torah lists different places where judges and officers are appointed, delineating the rules and laws that apply to them. In this week’s Parsha Chayei Sora, the Torah states in Bereishis 23:10 “V’Ephron Yosheiv B’Soch Bnei Cheis, VaYaan Ephron HaChiti Es Avraham B’Aznei Bnei Cheis L’Chol Baay Shaar Eero Laymore”. “Ephron was then sitting among the children of Cheis. Ephron the Chitite replied to Avraham in the presence of the children of Cheis so that all who came to the city gate could hear”. In ancient times judges typically held court at the city gates. Rashi , on this verse, points out that the word ‘Yosheiv’ is written ‘missing’ or written defectively. This is because on that day they appointed him ruler over them. Because of the importance of Avraham, who needed Ephron, Ephron ascended to greatness in a position of high office.

  1. Midrash Rabbah 31:17 records the following: “That very day the sons of Cheis had appointed Ephron their ruler”. A typical ruler has authority that ranges from punishment for a small infraction to punishment for a major crime. Ephron apparently did not have complete power as they commanded him to sell the cave to Avraham. Ephron said to them, “I will not sell it to him”. They replied, “if you do not sell it to him, we will remove you from your high office”. Immediately, Ephron was willing to sell the cave, and Avraham rose and paid him. Clearly, Ephron was the kind of judge who was an elected official and used common sense, making decisions case by case. Sometimes the sign of a good and moral judge is demonstrating the ability to change his mind when necessary. Sometimes a judge may determine that he had made an error and will hone up to it and change the decision.

It is interesting to note that the letters of Ephron’s name with different vowels spells out the Hebrew word Eeparon - a pencil. The obvious difference between a pen and a pencil is the ability to erase. (Although today they make erasers for pens, they are still not the same as a good old #2 pencil.) Taking a bit of literary license, I suggest that Ephron was the type of judge who at times, revisited prior decisions and changed his mind. In fact, when Avraham initially inquired about buying the cave, Ephron made light of the fact that he needed to be paid for it. In the end he took a hefty sum of four hundred silver pieces for the Mearas HaMachpeila.

Freedom is a given in this great country, but the quality of that freedom has now been challenged. When we pray in the bracha of Hashiva Shofteinu in the Amida, we are praying to return to the state of judges who will be smart and think of truth, justice and provide the framework to increase the religious and social freedoms that this great country was founded upon.

Parshas Vayera - Clarity, It's All in the Perspective           16 Cheshvan 5779

10/25/18 15:13:25


Every Saturday night following the conclusion of Shabbos, we call out Ah Gut Vach or Shavua Tov, meaning ‘have a good week’. Sometimes a person senses a certain omen that indicates whether or not the week will be good or bad with the tone being set by how the week begins. We should all keep in mind that the words we utter can be very powerful - whether for good or for bad. It is important, therefore, to remember that wishing someone ’a good week’ really means something. Rabbis in general have a superficial relationship with their congregants unless the congregant chooses to share personal and sometimes private or confidential information. Some Rabbis have close contact with some of their constituents and are more directly involved in their daily lives, thereby knowing more of the challenges the family faces. When that is the case, the Rabbi checks in on the individual or family to see how things are going, giving encouragement, advice and even a Bracha/Blessing.

A few weeks ago I wished someone a shavua tov and a ‘Mazaldikah Vach’. As we have grown closer over the years, this individual confided some major things going on in his life to me which may seriously affect him, his family, our community, and ultimately Klal Yisroel. That coming week would possibly signal the arrival of the big challenge. As I wished him the magical words, I squeezed his hand with more intensity and greater ‘kavana’ than the usual and casual blessing we say. I paused and thought about the words I was wishing him and then looked him in the eye and reviewed the intent of what just transpired. Hopefully, my typical after-Shabbos greeting, along with those of everyone else who wished him the same greeting will be fulfilled. This is the way we should begin our week following the power and influence of Shabbos.

Last Motzai Shabbos, as I walked out of Shul, I received an omen that led me to believe that a good week lay ahead of me. A short time earlier I had spoken about the holiness and beauty that a Beis HaKnesses - a Shul - requires. A shul is a Mikdash M’Ot, a small sanctuary that tries to stand in for the Beis HaMikdash in its absence. During Shalosh Seudos I spoke about how great it is that every inch of our Shul is used over Shabbos. In deed, this use is reflected by the collateral damage of trash that is left behind. Following a beautiful Shmuess by a visiting Rosh Yeshiva who spoke of the battle of raising children in this generation, I gave a suggestion regarding how to start. The beginning strategy we need in order to effectively fight the battle of educating our children is to become better role models for our children. Our children observe everything we do, and we must therefore do the right things in front of them. I encouraged everybody, including the adults, to pick up three or four pieces of trash with their children as they leave the Shul, the social hall, the Shul lobby, and the outside area. I had a large garbage can placed in the center walkway to make it easier to dispose of and collect garbage and trash. I was one of the last people to leave Shul. As I emerged from Shul I was shocked to see the grounds from the entire patio throughout the park spotless, as if no one had been here on Shabbos! I was so pleased to see the grounds so beautifully cleaned up and to know that my words had been met with acceptance. How would it be possible for HaKadosh Boruch Hu not grant us a great week after we were in Shul all Shabbos with Hashem and then make sure we left our Shul in the same beautiful appearance in which He had welcomed us.

Keeping the Shul clean and the outlying grounds free of debris falls under the rubric of Kavod HaTorah. A place where the main function is to daven and learn Torah requires overt, open respect. A Talmid Chacham, a Torah sage or scholar, is supposed to make sure his appearance is impeccable because he represents the Torah. Therefore, the place of learning needs to have a clean, neat appearance as well. We find the need for this kind of positive outlook in the Torah.

In this week’s parshas Vayera the Torah relates the story of three angels visiting Avraham, each with a different mission. 1) to heal Avraham from his Milah; 2) to bring the news that Avraham and Sarah will have a baby ;3) to destroy Sedom and Gemora. As they were ready to leave to destroy the cities the Torah states in Bereishis 18:16: “VaYakumu Misham HaAnashim VaYashkifu Al Pnei S’dom, V’Avraham Holeich Eemam L’Shalcham”. “The strangers (angels) got up from their places and gazed at Sodom, Avraham went with them to send them on their way”. *Rav Meir Meir Dan Plotsky, in his sefer Kli Chemda, puts a different spin on the word ‘Misham’. The word ‘Misham’ is actually superfluous, therefore, instead of the simple understanding ‘from their place’, meaning their seats, it means from there, this place, meaning Avraham’s home. The point made is that the angels saw the righteousness and great character traits of Avraham, particularly in the area of Hachnasos Orchim, the welcoming of guests. The angels then compared this to the wickedness of the people of Sedom, and ordered Sedom’s destruction. The level was raised against Sedom was even greater when compared to Avraham’s righteousness and warm welcoming of the strangers to his tent. This is why the verse specifically says they got up from there, a place of holiness, sanctity, righteousness, and good deeds, understanding a greater reason, a greater need to destroy Sedom. The angels attained a deeper ‘Hashkafa’ (vision of philosophical understanding) as the verse stated, “They gazed upon S’dom.”

  1. we (Hashem and Am Yisroel) leave Shul every Motzai Shabbos, each Saturday night, we should have a new, refreshed perspective on life. Hopefully, we take the holiness and sanctity of the Shul (like Avraham’s home) with us and look toward the week that may resemble a S’Dom and help guide and navigate through it with a clearer vision between right and wrong and the holy and the mundane. Hashem leaves with a renewed sense of satisfaction that His people have grown, satiating themselves with spirituality which will give them blessings for the new week. God witnessed a cleaned campus giving Him honor which therefore showered potential blessings upon us. May we continue to do this week in and week out both outside and inside the holy walls of Beth Jacob.


*Meir Dan Plotsky (or Plotski) (1866 - March 27, 1928) was the President of Kollel Polen, a Talmudic scholar who authored the Kli Chemdah, a commentary on the Torah. He also authored the Chemdas Yisrael on Sefer ha-Mitzvot. Plotsky was the son of Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Ber Plotzker of Kutno, who was first a follower of Rav Chanoch Henich of Alexander, but who then became a follower of the Sfas Emes of Ger. At the age of nine, Plotsky was sent to learn in the yeshiva of Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Wax, the Nefesh Chayah, in Kalisz, president of Kupat Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes Kollel Polen. Shortly before his bar mitzvah, he became a disciple of Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain (the Avnei Nezer), first Sochatchover Rebbe, whom he considered his lifelong rebbe muvhak (primary Torah teacher).

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

Parshas Lech Lecha - Building Upon the Foundation                     9 Cheshvan 5779

10/18/18 13:33:38


I studied just shy of two years in Israel post high school, attending an American yeshiva for boys who had not seized the opportunity to learn Torah in high school and were not introduced to learning in a non-threatening, no-pressure atmosphere. The climate in the Beis Medrash was adjusted to each student’s needs; there was an appropriate rebbi and method of teaching and learning for everyone. The yeshiva was located on top of a mountain while the community was down below, a good five to ten-minute walk depending upon which direction you were coming from. n addition to the incredibly dedicated Rabbeim and staff, the Yeshiva took advantage of having an American/English speaking Kollel in the community. Two nights a week some of these otherwise insulated Kollel Yeshiva men came to learn with the raucous, uncouth post-American high school students. There was a clear generation and societal gap between the black hat, white shirt Kollel guys to the ripped T-shirt and jeans, flip flop-wearing challenging boys with whom they had come to learn.

I had the merit to learn with a young man who was the most respected in all of Telz-Stone. My Chavrusa from the Kollel was a man named Alter Yachnes who taught the youngest class in the Cheder. His job was to teach the children the Aleph Beis, eventually teaching them how to read. Although an extremely humble man, when Reb Alter Yachnes walked into a room full of adults, everyone stood up to honor him. He was the most respected individual on par with the heads of the Yeshiva and head Rabbi of the town because he taught the fundamentals to the next generation. He used his expertise and talent, successfully teaching all the children privileged to learn from him, giving them the building blocks to become great Torah scholars. There are two great lessons to be learned from this: 1) The respect given to a person who isn’t necessarily the Rosh HaYeshiva but rather someone who will try to make others into great Torah and Jewish leaders, and 2) Providing the foundation of a building that is the most critical part of the structure. It is only with a strong, solid foundation that the building will survive any turmoil or trauma. The roots of a person take hold from the beginning; the best teachers give each student the tools to succeed. When we use the expression the ABC’s of life, these are not limited to reading and writing but to life’s experiences.

Whether we are discussing raising a child from birth, or nurturing an adult finding his or her way back to Judaism and religion, the foundation is critical. This rule applies tenfold when introducing a potential convert who is trying to become Jewish with the laying of the new Torah foundation on top of a pre-existing belief. A Ger Tzedek – a convert - needs instruction to replace the old foundation, starting anew with a Torah foundation, taking extreme care that it be laid carefully and correctly. The first person to lay such a foundation, creating the beginning of all Judaism, was Avraham Avinu. We will look and see how important the building of this foundation is through the actions and experience of Avraham.

In this week’s Parshas Lech Lecha Hashem instructs Avraham to take his entire household and travel to Eretz Canaan. In Bereishis 12: the Torah states: “Vayikach Avrom Es Sarai Ishto V’es Lot Ben Achiv, V’Es Kal Rechusham Asher Rachashu V’Es HaNefesh Asher Asu B’Charan Vayeitzu LaLeches Artza Canann, VaYavou Artza Canaan”. “Avrom took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all their belongings, as well as the people they had gathered, and they left, heading toward Canaan”. The words ‘Asher Asu B’Charan’ literally, “the soul that they had made” can be interpreted to mean the servants they had acquired, or, according to Rashi, the people that they had converted to God’s cause. Sarai had taught the women (converting them) while Avrom taught the men (converting them), bringing them to believe in monotheism.

*Rebbi Chanoch from Aleksander asks, “What happened to all those who converted? We don’t hear from them, we don’t hear anything about them, where did they disappear to?” He explains that after Avraham died, they did not want to learn from Yitzchok because they did not look up to him; they did not consider Yitzchok as important and noteworthy to follow as they did Avraham. This fact left them without a rebbi, without a teacher and a leader. These people whom Avraham and Sarah converted to monotheism were, upon Avraham’s death, without a Rebbi and Manhig, devoid of a teacher and a leader. They had no future, no continuation. There was nothing to keep pulling them along because the spring, the source of their growth, was gone. Once the source of direction and inspiration dries up, once that teacher, that leader is no longer present, then the people – nurtured by Sarah and Avraham Avinu - reverted to their old ways. Every person, in order to continue to grow and to deepen in knowledge and belief, needs to seek out a way to fill a void; when the source of learning Torah and Mitzvos is gone. That void must be filled. Hence, the old life style, never forgotten, will call once again, making it so easy to return to a previous way of living. No major effort is required to return to the ways in which we had previously been accustomed to living.

Unfortunately, there are times when a leader of a generation passes on and a younger version of the father comes to replace him. People should be careful and not say that the Gadol , the leader of this generation, isn’t as great as the Rabbi who had come before him. A person must look at the current Rabbi, or leader as the Tzadik of this generation. The leadership of each generation reflects the people of that specific generation. It is imperative that when someone leaves a yeshiva or a seminary to follow through with a new rov, a new mentor in their new location. I strongly encourage individuals prior to leaving this community to find another rov to turn to, to ask questions to, and to establish an overall relationship with. Even the best foundations need reinforcement from time to time; we can’t depend upon original teachings. We learn in Pirkei Avos, Asei L’cha Rav: make sure you have a rov to ask your questions to and to seek out guidance in areas that are not clear to you. Let’s not get lost like the students of Avraham. All of us need to cling to the next person who fills that role, continuously solidifying and building every more deeply upon the foundations laid by our original Rabbis and teachers.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Rabbi Chanoch Henich HaKohen of Alexander was born in Poland in 1798 and died in Poland in 1870. He was a disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pshis'cha, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei Harym.

When Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei Harym, the rabbi of Alexander, passed away, pressure was put upon his grandson, Rabbi Yehudah Leib - the Sefat Emet to become the new leader. He felt unworthy, however, and instead went to Alexander giving his support to Rabbi Chanoch Henich. After only four years, Rabbi Chanoch passed away, and then Reb Yehudah Leib was left with no choice but to comply with the wishes of the Chassidim to become the leader of Ger. Rabbi Chanoch was known for his great wisdom in niglah and nistar, the revealed and mystical aspects of the Torah. A man of miracles and wonders, Reb Yehudah Leib was also known for praying loudly with great excitement.

Parshas Noach -  A Modern Day Ark                   2 Cheshvan 5779

10/11/18 11:30:52


A few weeks ago I did something that I would say happens to others but not to me! While aboard a flight which was about to land in San Diego, the pilot went through his typical, prepared remarks and preparation for landing. in addition to the usual safety instructions, he reminded all the passengers to take their personal belongings and then quipped, ”Some of you will still leave stuff behind.” I thought to myself, ”Boy, I bet he insulted some people with that last comment!” Like, who is going to forget something after he made that statement, challenging everyone not to forget anything. Well…sure enough, right after after I deplaned and was walking to the baggage claim area, I checked my carry on for my phone charger and immediately recalled not seeing it or remembering to put it into my bag. I definitely processed the gathering of my paraphernalia, actually remember thinking about putting my charger into my bag, and…yeah… here I was, the shmugegy whom the pilot was referring to! I went back to the gate, gave the attendant my seat number, explaining that I had forgotten to take my phone charger. Within minutes I was reconnected to my charger and off I went.

Typically, people forget things getting off a plane but do not forget things at the gate boarding the plane. At the gate we don’t usually unload as much stuff as we do once we’re on board. Perhaps the time is too short before boarding so we don’t bother taking things out. Nevertheless, chances are greater that we will forget something when we leave the plane than we line up to board the plane. Another observation, particularly when the policy of the airline is not to have assigned seating, is how people randomly take seats and fill up the plane when boarding. Also, the order in which people board the plane isn’t necessarily the order they use get off. For example, the last person on isn’t necessarily the first person off and vice versa. As much as the airlines try to control the boarding process, passengers will never board in the order of rows and succession of the next row. On the other hand, the deplaning is done in a very orderly fashion, with people allowing the passengers in front of them to retrieve their belongings from the overhead bins, waiting patiently for them to proceed. Despite having plenty of time to gather up the personal items, I still forgot my charger.

When we board a plane there is an agent who checks our boarding passes, scanning them to make sure we are who we are while also checking our hand luggage and carry-ons to see if they meet the allocated space requirements. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an agent escort us off and make sure we have everything we brought with us as we depart? I know this sounds a bit sarcastic and foolish, but for those of us who forgot or will forget, it could really be helpful! A very eerie similar scenario is found in the Torah. In fact, it is the first recorded voyage for a large group that needed to get on board quickly and efficiently and to disembark in an orderly fashion as well.

In this week’s parshas Noach we read of the maiden (& only) voyage/journey and of the survivors of the Mabul, the great flood. In Bereishis 7:7 the Torah states: “VaYavo Noach UBanav V’Ishto U’Neshei Banav Ito El HaTeivah Mipnei Mei HaMabul” - “Noach, along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, came into the ark ahead of the waters of the flood”. Later, in Bereishis 8:18,19, the Torah states: “VaYeitzay Noach, UBanav V’Ishto U’Nshei Banav Ito………Kal Romeis Al HaAretz L’Mishpichoseihem Yatzu Min HaTeiva” - “Noach left the Ark along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives………all that walk the land—left the ark by families. Rashi, commenting on the words: ‘because of the waters of the flood’ states that Noach was forced into the Teivah. Even Noach was of those who had little faith; he believed but also did not believe that the Flood would come; he did not enter the Ark until the waters forced him to do so. It sounds as though Noach, and even the animals, took their time getting onto the Teiva. Only when it was ‘the last call for boarding’ did they all hop on. Apparently, they did not show up in any set formation or order, rather they boarded haphazardly. Random people merge together on a plane (or ship for that matter) and for the duration of the flight have a certain sense of connection that didn’t exist at the gate prior to boarding which disappears as soon as they walk through the exit door. While on the vessel everyone is in the same situation as their fellow passengers, unlike who and what they were prior to and after the trip. One commentary compares this to the year of the flood; everyone and every creature lived together in harmony. Miraculously, all kinds of life, from human to animal to fowl, all coexisted together and lived and came out alive! Noach witnessed and understood what a miraculous ‘happening; this was for thousands of species to live together. Not one creature died in the ark. This was a great kindness that Hashem did for Noach, and Noach saw this miracle and built an altar, offering sacrifices to Hashem for His kindness.

Imagine a plane filled with passengers deciding to remain in the cabin; not one person getting off the plane, each passenger feeling a good and different type of life than experienced by the outside world. As tempting as this may seem, it is highly unlikely that the airline would permit everyone to stay, and even if they would allow such an event, it is not in the best interest of anyone, for as interesting and polite as people are while sitting next to each other during a flight, this is a temporary connection; it is not one intended to last. Moreover, the Pninei Torah says Hashem commanded Noach and everyone to leave the Teivah. Hashem directs Noach to leave the utopian society - where he is only focused on the wellbeing of himself, his family, and the animals onboard - to leave the Teivah, the ark, and go out into the world where they had previously lived. Instead of allowing the sins of the generation that brought the flood upon the world, go out now, return to that world, and stop such sins from occurring again in the future. Go out from the ark and mill around the market place, mix among the people and have a positive influence on them. Ultimately, we have a responsibility to be a source of positive influence, but only after we become strong in our commitments, belief, and sincere depth of Torah scholarship Are we truly able to do so.

Finally, Reb Yitzchok Ben Yehuda HaLevi, in his work Paneach Raza, learns out from the words ‘go out from the Teivah’ that this is the way all of the humans and animals exited the Teivah (the Ark) according to their families. So too, families should leave Shul on Shabbos - family by family - as they leave the Ark, the Aron Kodesh, which they had faced while praying. We should demonstrate our unity, love, and commitment from where we had just read and learned the Torah that we have a mission to guide, be lead, and influence the world we live!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bereishis - The Postseason                30 Tishrei 5779

10/09/18 10:21:22


I was pleasantly surprised when a few people asked me about the weekly Parsha message for Bereishis last week. Due to the fact that following the conclusion of the Chag and having only half a week left until Shabbos coupled with a medical procedure I had undergone, I was unable to write something for the very first Parsha of the year, which I had desperately wanted to do. Since we are all familiar with the law found in Shulchan Aruch and Rama O.C. 299:6 quoting Rambam that Havdala can be recited until Tuesday because it is still connected to the previous Shabbos, I was given some leeway in catching up from last week and writing about Bereishis until today!

This time of year, heralds the end of the baseball season with the playoffs, finally the World Series. In sports as well as so many other activities in life, this is how one wraps up important projects or events. A team can be in top form during an entire season, but if it doesn’t win, it feels like a big waste. On the other hand, if a team is mediocre during the season but manages to win it all – playoffs and take the Series - in the case of baseball - then the regular season is forgotten. So, too, with all athletes and players. Despite an athlete having a great season, he will be remembered by how well or poorly he performed in the playoffs and the championship games. Chazal, the Rabbis have said, “HaKol Holeich Achar HaChisum”: everything follows the end or conclusion. If the star player fizzles out during the championship game, it wipes out the great regular season. If the worst player during the year has a championship end, he will be remembered.

When we use sports or mundane situations to compare to holy ones we remark, “L’Havdil Bein HaKodesh L’Chol”, to separatethe holy from the mundane. This kind of analogy to a regular season and postseason is consistent with the time of year we are currently entering. We’ve just finished the last month of the previous year and the first month of the new year. The time of the month of Elul with its preparation and the month of Tishrei, which is packed with the holiest of days, together make up the main season of the Jewish calendar. Tishrei, with Rosh Hashana, Ten Days of Repentance, Yom HaKippurim, Sukkos, Shmini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah, is the holy season. Now we begin the long haul of the post season - the rest of the year - which determines if we will be champions or not. Some people had a wonderful, inspiring few months, but then will fall off the bandwagon while others had a mediocre high holiday season but will take off during the rest of the year. At this point we’ve made it to the playoffs and will keep on going to the championship games. It is irrelevant how we did during the regular season at this time, now we must focus on being the best right now, focusing on continuing at that level from now. No one should get down on themselves for not having a great Yom Tov; we can have a great post high holiday season over the next ten months which is almost as important. For those who had a fantastic season, it is all the more important to keep up that pace and to build upon the original season. This idea rings loudly as we begin sefer Bereishis.

The very first word of the Torah is B’Reishis - ‘In the beginning”. There are dozens of commentaries and explanations to this word and to the beginnings of the world. Alongside all the deep explanations we typically learn, one can simply look at the word B'Reishis and explain the first letter ‘Beis’ to mean with or in the beginning. The letter ‘Beis’ is an affiliate or a branch of the word ‘Reishis’ - beginning. God gave a special strength to the creation that each person can begin anew from the beginning, just as in the original creation. When we begin to learn the Chumash/Torah over again after all completion of the festivals of Tishrei, we do so with a new invigoration. It is with this same enthusiasm that we learned Torah and Parshas Bereishis the very first time. We have the same strength to do it again. We have the ability to learn Bereishis all over again with the same excitement and enthusiasm as we had when we learned it the first, the second, and every time.

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Chagiga chapter three and in other midrashim explains why the Torah begins with a Beis and not an Aleph. The word for blessing, Bracha, begins with the letter Beis, while the word for curse, Arur, begins with an Aleph. Rabbi Dov Weinberger in his sefer Shemen HaTov explains that the primary ideal by which a person should live his life is the ’beis’, the with and in something else, to recognize that we need a second something in life, whether it is we who need the other or the other needs us. If we recognize the need for others and for us to be there for others, then we will see blessings in our lives. On the other hand, someone who lives life by the Aleph, saying, “I don’t need anyone else; I’m not here to help anyone else,” life will be cursed.

The fact that we start learning the Torah again and again reinforces the concept that one time is never enough. It is with each additional time we learn that the need to add on to the original learning continues to grow and grow. Even when the original or first-time leaning is good, reviewing and going over solidifies and deepens that which was learned initially. The post season isn’t only viewed as a different time; it is an opportunity to add on to the original season, strengthening that which we started. In Judaism, when we make it past the initial onslaught of Yom Tov, it is only the beginning the Bereishis of the year. Now the rest of the year comes to strengthen, solidify and quantify that which we committed to during the High Holiday season.

May the blessings of the new year be the beginning of a great year and be a true blessing to continue throughout the rest of the year during the post season.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas HaAzinu - A Little Piece of Heaven on Earth      12 Tishrei 5779

09/21/18 10:51:22


This past summer San Diego experienced much warmer than usual weather for a prolonged period with very little relief. In addition to the unseasonable heat, there was an elevated degree of humidity that I had not previously experienced here. As uncomfortable as it was for most of us this summer, San Diego’s humidity didn’t come close to the typical humidity of Charleston, South Carolina, where we used to live. Nevertheless, the weeks of heat we experienced this summer reminded me of something I caught myself doing. A friend of mine from Charleston, named David Rosenberg, drove his car with his windows open and the air conditioning blasting. I could never understand the explanation given by my friend, who told me that he enjoyed the natural breeze while driving, but since it was warm he also needed the cool, artificial air of the a/c. I never fully appreciated this dichotomy until recently when I found myself in a similar but different situation. I will explain.

As is typical in San Diego with desert-like conditions, the change of air temperature drops considerably, morphing from very hot, dry heat to an extremely pleasant, cooler afternoon. I try not to run the air conditioning, but this summer it ran almost non-stop. The few days when the temperature cooled down in the evening, I rushed to shut the air conditioning off and open the windows to let in some cool fresh air. It then occurred to me that I wasn’t only turning off the a/c because of the electric bill but simply because it felt more natural. I was (and still am) getting a sense of being tired, feeling the ‘artificialness’ of the filtered, processed air conditioned room, preferring instead to breathe in the natural, crisp, cool air that we all take for granted living in San Diego. Man has done many things to create an artificial environment that mimics the handiwork of God. Nevertheless, as much as man works to control temperature and humidity, it is never quite up to the level of what Hashem creates. God’s heating and cooling systems are of the natural brand; man uses the artificial kind. Nothing that is artificial is as good as the real thing, and when we compare the two we would all choose the natural over the artificial.

When Hashem created the world, everything came from heaven, but man was given permission to do things on the ground. Hashem created the world Yeish May’Ayin, ‘something from nothing’, while man creates Yeish MiYeish, something from something. The artificial things that we craft are the by-products of what God gave us to work with. We often find the distinction between heaven and earth not only during creation, but also at other times such as Matan Torah, the plagues against the Egyptians, and towards the final parshios of the Torah. Something from the natural or even the supernatural comes down to the artificial and most definitely the superficial.

In this week’s Parshas HaAzinu the Torah states in Devarim 32:1אהַֽאֲזִ֥ינוּ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וַֽאֲדַבֵּ֑רָה וְתִשְׁמַ֥ע הָאָ֖רֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!”

The Gerrer Rebbe, in his Chidushei HaRim, explains why there is double meaning in listening and talking. In this verse both words “listen” and “talk” are mentioned. He explains that if you want to listen, Hashem will send you words, but if your ears are not bent on listening, then there are no words. The sages tell us that all who are endowed with Yiras Shamayim, (fear of heaven) - something belonging to the spiritual nature - will have words accepted by the people. If, in Heaven, those words are accepted on the loftiest of levels, then surely, on earth, in the physical part of our existence, those words will be accepted.

Rashi, regarding this verse, teaches that: “I give warning to the people of Israel, that you (heaven and earth) be witness in this matter, for I have told them that you will be witnesses. And why did He call to witness against them heaven and earth? Moshe said: ‘I am flesh and blood; tomorrow I die. If the Israelites will say: We have not taken upon ourselves the covenant, who will come to contradict them?’ Therefore, He called to witness against them heaven and earth: witnesses that exist forever.” Furthermore, the heavens and the earth will control the reward and punishment. If the Jews keep to the bris, the covenant, rain will come down from heaven and the land will produce. But if the Jews rebel and turn away from accepting the Torah, then the heavens will dry up and the fields will not yield their fruit. Rav Alexander Levinson, in his sefer ‘Ayal TaArog, posits a difficult question: Does Hashem really need witnesses regarding whether or not the Jews accepted the Torah? In addition to understanding that the heaven and earth are acting as messengers of God in carrying out reward and punishment, Rav Levinson answers that the Rabbis taught that man can be a partner with God in the creation of the world. When we do something good, something positive, which helps the world exist, we help to bring the world to Shleimus (completeness) and wholesomeness. But if we do something harmful or evil, we are destroying ourselves and the entire world along with us. Every Mitzva builds the world; every sin tears it down.

With this, we can explain the words ‘heaven and earth are witnesses’. Heaven and earth bear witness to the mitzvos or Aveiros - the good or the bad acts that we do - and will testify against us. When a person sins, he brings destruction upon himself; performing a mitzva brings blessing, thereby rectifying and solidifying the world. Hashem gave us the ability to follow the guidance of Hashem, continuing the creation begun by God.Artificial cooling and heating complement the original heating and air conditioning that took place during the six days of creation. Having the windows down while the air conditioning blows is the synthesis of heaven and earth, complementing creation.

The Sadigere Rebbe, Reb Avraham Yakov, relates how heaven and earth refer to the body and the soul representing the spiritual and the physical. It is through the combination of both body and soul that this song of HaAzinu emphasizes the importance of Torah learning and Mitzva observance.

Parshas Vayeilech - Who Will...? and Who Will...?   5 Tishrei 5779

09/14/18 08:25:05


The concept that everything for the coming year is determined on Rosh Hashana is part of our tradition. We recite the holy Tefillah of Unesaneh Tokef on Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim. Despite the fact the decrees are written on Rosh Hashana and are sealed on Yom Kippur; we have one week in-between to change anything that is not favorable to us. Added to this equation is sustenance: there must be an overt effort made by the individual to earn a livelihood. One of the sources supporting the notion that a person’s livelihood is determined for the entire year is found in the Talmud.

The Gemara Beitzah states on 16a תני רב תחליפא אחוה דרבנאי חוזאה כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה ועד יום הכפורים חוץ מהוצאת שבתות והוצאת יום טוב והוצאת בניו לתלמוד תורה שאם פחת פוחתין לו ואם הוסיף מוסיפין לו. ביצה טז. Rav Tachlifa, the brother of Ravnai of the house of Chozae, learned that the entire sustenance of man [for the year] is fixed for him from the New Year's [Festival] to the Day of Atonement, except the expenditure for Sabbaths and the expenditure for Festivals and the expenditure for the instruction of his children in the Law. If he spent less for any of these expenses, he is given less; if he spent more, he is given more. The Entire Sustenance of Man - All profits that he will earn this year to sustain himself - are fixed. Rashi comments on this passage as follows. כל מזונותיו של אדם - כל מה שעתיד להשתכר בשנה שיהא נזון משם קצוב לו כך וכך ישתכר בשנה זו ויש לו ליזהר מלעשות יציאה מרובה שלא יוסיפו לו שכר למזונות אלא מה שפסקו לו. חוץ מהוצאת שבתות - אותה לא פסקו לו מה ישתכר לצרכה ומהיכן תבואהו אלא לפי מה שרגיל ממציאים לו לשעה או לאחר שעה. פוחתין לו - כלומר ממציאין לו שכר מועט. : This is how much he will earn this year. And he must be cautious not to spend excessively because he will only be given what was fixed for him. Except for the expenditures of Shabbat - It was not determined what one will earn for those expenditures and where they will come from. Rather, one will be provided with whatever he is accustomed to over time. He is Given less - meaning, he will make less profit (Rashi).

This is one of the more difficult calculations a person tries to figure out every week. For Shabbos and Yom Tov a person needs to believe that he is really spending in honor of the day, not because he likes to eat. Perhaps an even more powerful message is that the amount of money spent on Jewish education is not calculated to be part of ones ‘annual income’; it is money that is spent from a different account that Hashem gives to a person. In other words, if a person believes that Hashem will pay the tuition bill, he need not worry where the money will come from for everything else needed in life. But if a person does not spend properly on those items, then God takes the money from the general account and not from the one that He sets aside for these matters. I had a recent experience whereby I came to realize how our sustenance is determined, even though we all tend to think we control it.

Many years ago while living in Charleston S. C., my son was given a check for his upsherenish (3rd birthday hair cutting ceremony). In my mind once you have the check, the money is in your pocket and my young son had a few dollars. I did not deposit the check right away. Tragically, the man who gave him the check was killed. It is forbidden to cash a check knowing that the person who gave it has passed away and that money was not to be had. But that was only an eighteen-dollar check. This past summer I was cleaning out the office in my house when I came across two checks - one for thirty-six dollars and the other for FIVE HUNDRED dollars. These checks somehow were not deposited either, but I couldn’t deposit them now because they were given to me eleven years ago! To be honest, I do not remember what the checks were for, but I do know who issued them. It would be awkward and foolish to go back to the people and ask them, ”Do you think you could write a new check because I neglected to deposit the first one?

This true short story has two sides: The first is the obvious one - I was not supposed to have the money from those checks. There are many ways for Hashem to arrange and orchestrate how much money we should have. Perhaps when we incur an extra expense or a fee that we were not anticipating is related to the fact we had extra funds which we did not use properly and Hashem easily chooses a way for us not to have it or use it. But the flip side is also true - the fact that I failed to deposit those checks meant that the accounts from where the money was to be drawn were never withdrawn. Therefore, the issuers of the checks had more money in their accounts then they thought they had. HaKadosh Baruch Hu is able to make sure that while one person has too much, he might lose some, and another who has too little will receive the money according to Hashem’s plan. Since a person did not spend his money on the right things such as Shabbos and tuition, he will lose out on extra money, while another person who spent properly and now needs money to pay his regular bills will have ‘found’ money in his bank account.

Money, Parnassa (livelihood) constitute the greatest tests we all go through. Sometimes we clearly see the hand of God directly involved, but sometimes when we don’t deserve the source of funds that are taken away. As far as my checks are concerned, at this point the money is irretrievable. The money is gone, but the lesson and evidence to a statement of Chazal in understanding how much money we receive is priceless!


Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Gmar Chasima Tova

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nitzavim - Paradigm Shift     26 Elul 5778     

09/13/18 17:38:09


There are few Jewish communities the size of San Diego that boast a late Maariv minyan. Most Shuls daven Mincha and Maariv back to back around sunset. Our success rate with the late Maariv is approximately ninety percent, which, of course, leaves a ten percent chance that there won’t be a minyan. One of the unwritten rules is that we wait until a certain time before we call off the minyan for that night if we did not get ten men. The exception to the waiting rule is when there is a need for someone to say kaddish for a loved one, specifically a mother or father. We try to make extra calls to gather a minyan so that a person in need of a minyan to daven can fulfill his obligation, but we don’t always succeed.

Recently, we had this situation occur twice; it was resolved one time but not the other. This occurred the last night the Beth Jacob summer grill was open, and a family from LA was finishing up their dinner. I mentioned to them that we were going to start soon, but they said they needed to get going back to Los Angeles. Just about the time we would usually call the game I went outside, they were still lingering around, I asked again, and they replied, ‘how many do you need?’ I said we need three and without pause they said, ”We’re coming.’ We made the minyan, and two people were able to recite kaddish. A week earlier, we weren’t so lucky. It was the night I had just flown back from New York, and we only had four people for the late Maariv. An attempt was made to get a minyan by calling some people to no avail. I felt terrible because there was someone who has come to rely on this late Maariv to say Kaddish for his late father. I was embarrassed to face the young man who needs to say kaddish. I sheepishly walked over to him, apologized and said hopefully we’ll have a minyan tomorrow night, and we proceeded to pray individually. As I was walking home a car pulled up next to me in the parking lot. It was the mourner who is saying kaddish. I thought to myself, ”Oh now he is upset, etc, Instead, I received an incredible lesson. Just as I was going to apologize a second time he blurted out saying,“Maariv was really special tonight.” I’m thinking to myself, ”Really? We didn’t get a minyan and you couldn’t say kaddish!” He said, ”This was the first time I was able to say the entire Amidah in Hebrew. You see, my Hebrew reading isn’t up to par and I need to say some parts of the Amidah in English so that I can finish with the group in order to say Kaddish.” I was totally blown away by that conversation. He took a bad situation and created a great opportunity for himself. I stepped back from that two-minute conversation with words from a mussar sefer (book of self-improvement). Imagine a world where everyone took bad and disappointing situations and created positive circumstances from them. Then, keeping that world of people who focus on the positive and take a moment to look within ourselves, seeing how our personal lives could be so much better if we each would try to take the bad situations which too frequently come our way and focus consciously to create something positive from them.

In truth, this sounds so incredible and, in our day, and age it unfortunately is. In today’s world the typical response to a bad situation is to exploit it even further, giving no attempt to look for the possible good which could occur as a result. But that is not the way we are supposed to react. To the contrary, the Torah teaches us to counter a challenging, difficult situation with something positive and good. In this week’s Torah portion Nitzavim, the Torah states in Devarim 30:15 “R’ay Nasati L’Fanecha HaYom Es HaChaim V’Es HaTov, V’Es HaMaves V’Es Horah”. “See! Today I have set before you [a free choice] between life and good [on one side] and death and evil [on the other]. The Midrash Tanchuma in Parshas Pekudei Siman 3 writes that Hashem decrees upon each person before they are even born what they will be. (Until recently people thought this was strictly a metaphor. Now with the discovery of DNA we are coming to know this concept in a new light.) It is pre-determined whether a person will be weak or strong, poor or rich, short or tall, ugly or handsome, thick or thin, ruddy or smooth, and finally the decree on all that will happen! But whether a person is a Tzadik or a Rasha (righteous or wicked) is strictly determined by the person himself. He is not predisposed to either characteristic; he chooses which path – the righteous or the evil – to take. The verse states: ‘Behold I am placing in front of you ‘life and the good’ and ‘death and the evil’. Then later in 30:19 the Torah states: U’Bacharta BaChaim L’Maan Tichyeh: …. and you have chosen life so that you shall live.” The Torah (God) is telling us that the choice is ours; the decision lies within ourselves. If a person chooses to to lean and then to follow towards a certain course – whether it be towards the road to life or the road to death – they are free to do so. The choice is entirely theirs. Therefore, a person will receive punishment for the bad they do (that they chose to do) and others will receive a hefty reward for the good and straight path they chose.

In my humble opinion the pshat (understanding) is the physical life or death and good or bad but not the literal translation of either doing the Mitzvos or not. Rather, the choosing here is not limited to the action but rather the attitude. There is so much to life that is determined by one’s own attitude. It is the attitude and approach to life that literally can be the difference between life and death in this world. A person who always sees and interprets things in the negative will lead a less enjoyable and possibly a physically shorter life. On the other hand, someone who takes everything in stride, determined to figure out a way to take challenging circumstances and make each challenge work for his or her benefit is a person who chooses life. That person will adapt to any situation and come up with a way to shape it to his advantage. A mourner goes through many hoops to make sure he has a minyan to say kaddish. It can be demoralizing when the needed number for the minyan falls short. If we focus on the failure, then we choose feeling bad, and that leads to death. If we attempt to take that situation and come up with something positive, then we are choosing good which ultimately gives us life.

As we close out this year and we welcome the new year, let this new year bring each of us a focus on making the best of bad situations so that we will all have a year of goodness, happiness and the ultimate good life!

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Gut Yur

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - Parking Permits & Passes    19 Elul 5778

08/30/18 12:49:44


Every generation goes through a transition period. There are people alive today who are able to recall the transformation of travel from horses to car to air. Technological evolution and the changes it creates require all of us to adapt and adjust. Younger people grasp onto these new fangled inventions much more easily those of us born prior to 1990. One of the ways a person ‘stays young’ is by adjusting to life’s new surroundings, whether style, technology, or even the architecture of our cities. As a middle-aged man, I try to familiarize myself with the ever-increasing speed of technology and what is available to us Vis-a- Vis new computer devises and the Internet. Most times, the changes are for the better, often saving time, money and aggravation. In my opinion something that saves time, money and aggravation is a blessing. A recent experience I had with this is the College Area parking permit B process.

Due to the impact of university student parking in the neighborhood, the city issues parking permits for the residents of the area in order to avoid an overflow of students parking on the street which would cause a lack of space for residents to park. Over the last twenty years the process for obtaining these passes has improved immensely, but only for those who can handle basic computer know how. Years ago, I had to go downtown (and pay for parking) with my proof of residence, a form for each vehicle, copies of licenses and registrations and then wait in long bureaucratic lines. The cost of each permit was fourteen dollars per vehicle plus an additional fourteen dollars for a guest parking pass. Fast forward twenty-three years. All of this is now easily completed at your leisure from the comfort of your home. The forms are on-line; and all you need to do is scan the other documentation and pay by credit card. We can all appreciate how computers and the Internet save us time and aggravation. But how does this save us money?

One would think that with the advent of computers and much of the filing and processing done by humans in the past, we should save money on labor. The reality is that most prices and charges in life never go down, despite any decline in the costs of the items. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule due to economic conditions and price fluctuations. Rare is the occasion, however, when a charge or a price has been fixed for over twenty years and then is suddenly reduced! To my utter shock and disbelief, the area B parking passes actually dropped from fourteen dollars to nine! A five dollar reduction! I am so happy that I’ve decided not to contact the city to check if there may have been some mistake. Perhaps San Diego is unique, as a similar situation regarding elimination of the Coronado Bridge toll. The city stated the toll would be removed soon as the bridge construction costs were paid. Lo and behold, the city lived up to its word and the bridge toll is no more! This is probably the only suspension bridge built in modern times which costs drivers nothing to cross. There is no question they could have argued the money is still need for repairs and upkeep. Instead the city kept its word. I’m only assuming that the cost of processing the parking permits has gone down, and the savings is now being passed on to the residents – which is, of course, the right thing to do.


This time of the year focuses on change and transition. We try to modify and adjust our spiritual existence for the better, hopefully using precious time efficiently, spending our resources on spiritual growth, avoiding aggravation in the coming year and world to come. But how do we know if something that begins and appears as a blessing will continue to be that blessing? A hint to this can be found in this week’s Torah reading 

In this week’s Parsha Ki Savo the Torah states in Devarim 28:6: “Baruch Ata B’Voecha, U’Baruch Ata B’Tzeisecha” -“Blessed are you when you enter, and blessed are you when you leave”. Chaza”l learn out this verse with regard to sinning, a person to leave this world without sin just as he entered it without sin. This notion sounds wonderful, but one issue we have is how do the sages come to this idea? The Gemara in Eruvin 13b states: “ ת״ר שתי שנים ומחצה נחלקו ב״ש וב״ה הללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא והללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שנברא יותר משלא נברא נמנו וגמרו נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא עכשיו שנברא יפשפש במעשיו ואמרי לה ימשמש במעשיו. “The Rabbis taught: For two and a half years Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel argued. Some said better or easier for a person not to be created more so than be created. Others said a person is better off being created more so than not be created. A vote was taken, and the results were better for man not to have been created rather than be created, but now that he was created he should feel out or check out his actions to examine his ways and deeds. Based upon this Gemara what blessing is there upon entering this world? How is it a Bracha for a person to come into this world?

Tosafos addresses the question and answers with a distinction as to the kind of people we are denoting. If we are discussing a Rasha - an evil, bad, or wicked person - he surely would be better off never having entered this world because he runs the risk of sinning and being punished on the way out or in the next world. A Tzadik, a righteous and good person, is not only good for him to come into the world, but it is even good for his generation. The generation that has great people living among them benefits everyone as they learn from them and access all the good fortune they bring. This distinction could very well explain the difference of opinion between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel to the extent that they both agree to each concept being attributed to a Tzadik or a Rasha. That is why the opinion is anonymous regarding both individuals: we just don’t know which person said which statement.

When a person leaves this world without sin, then retroactively it will have been a blessing for him to have come into the world in the first place. That is a Tzadik. The opposite, however, is also true. If a person comes into this world and grows full of sins, then we view his life retroactively that it would have been better if he had not been born. Most people know are neither completely righteous nor completely wicked. We are the ‘benonim’ - the average people whose actions nevertheless impact us individually and collectively as a community. Let ‘s use the remaining days of this year striving, focused to become Tzadikim with fewer sins so that moving forward into the next year will be a blessing as it was when we came into this world.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Teitzei - Special Education             12 Elul 5778

08/23/18 14:35:30


When I grew, up school always started immediately after Labor Day. Maybe this “traditional” start date for the new school year is a Northeastern practice, because in the south schools typically open a few weeks earlier. I wouldn’t call the preparation associated with the days leading up to beginning the new school year fun, but there is an air of excitement connected with this time. Teachers are busy setting up their classrooms with new materials, students are excited about purchasing all their new school supplies, and parents are ecstatic that the summer is over, signaling that their kids will soon be out of the house (and hair) for a major part of the day. Nevertheless, with all the preparations, we tend to lose focus on the primary purpose of school. With all the excitement about buying needed supplies, purchasing new school outfits or uniforms, we tend to forget that the most important aspect of going to school is to learn!

  1. for many schools, one method is used to teach groups – sometimes large groups – of students using similar teaching techniques for everyone.. This method of teaching is the antithesis of Shlomo HaMelech’s - king Solomon’s - words of “Chanoch LaNaar Al Pi Darko”: we should “educate every child according to his way”, his way and not necessarily the way for everyone else. Surely this is a very challenging objective considering our current school systems curricula, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to teach each child according to his or her own ability and learning style. The overall education system, inclusive of Jewish education, has made great strides in affording a learning forum for students who have unique learning challenges or special needs. As important as it is to establish these specific needs, the labeling tends to detract from the overall message of the unique learning style of each student, especially the emergent learners in the primary grades of school. Every child’s education needs to be special in the sense that education for that child is catered specifically to nurture success for that child. Special education as we know it provides an education for certain people, leaving everyone else without a special or unique education. Every single student or is not only entitled to ‘special education.’ Individualization of teaching and learning is exactly what Shlomo HaMelech referred to when he clearly states that every child is to be educated “according to his ways,” applying whatever special way is needed to reach each youngster.

Labeling something or someone in the world is often necessary, but it should never come with negative drawbacks. One must be very careful not to use language that encompasses a lot of different things for fear of including some within that definition and while excluding others. Such is the case with using the word ‘special education’. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is quoted as saying that he did not use the Hebrew word ‘Beit Cholim’: ‘home for the sick’ for a hospital. Rather he emphasized the positive, using many phrases in place of Beit Cholim. He referred to a hospital as a Beit Refuah - a house of healing. We all need ‘special education’ and the flip side is that educators need to know how to teach specifically and appropriately to each and every student.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to create a child who feels like a failure. Children are fragile; they can be broken at the very outset, turning to negative behavior so as to receive positive reinforcement or approval from their peers through mischief. A child who has been internally labeled a failure by his or her teacher will very likely seek approval from the inappropriate actions and behaviors. Children vie for attention from their parents and peers and will do almost anything to achieve it. They may even go as far as to steal money from parents and further his decline socially by seeking out others who may be self-labeled failures. -Such a child may also drink half a log (about 5 oz) of wine with the meal when his/her parents are not paying attention. This description is part of the rebellious son’s actions that would likely have led him to be put to death. This is the Mitzva of the Ben Sorer Umoreh, a most difficult section of the Torah to understand, but nonetheless important to figure out. How can we understand this section beyond the simple explanation? In this week’s parsha Ki Tetze, the Torah states in Devarim 21:18 “Ki Yihiyeh L’Ish Bein Sorer U’Moreh Einenu Shomeiah B’Kol Aviv U’Vkol Imo, V’Yisru Oso V’Lo Yishma Aleihem”. “When a man has a wayward, rebellious son, one who does not obey his father and mother, they shall have him flogged. If he still does not listen to them, then his father and mother must grasp him and bring him to the elders of the city, to that area’s supreme court”.

The *Zohar describes the situation of the rebellious son as follows. Moshe Rabbeinu said to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, ‘is there such a father who would do such a thing to his own son?’ Moshe suspected that this was a parable to the Jewish people, the people being the wayward son. Hashem replied to Moshe ‘You know things, but I know more than you’. This portion of the Torah gives credit and merit upon the Jewish people; the son is only judged by God Himself and no one else. The son (Am Yisroel) became rebellious because they were exiled amongst the nations and have learned the ways of the Goyim. During exile the Jews are subject to the influence of the host nation. The sway of the nations is caused by our integration into society at large, which led the Jews to stumble in the laws of kashrus, eating forbidden foods. But the nations of the world despise us so that they will pelt us with stones, destroy our homes and tear down the walls of Israel from hatred alone”. Once Moshe heard this entire episode, understanding it to be an allegory for the Jewish people and not an individual boy, he wrote this Parsha of the Torah without fear or hesitation.

Judaism is a beautiful religion and the Torah is what makes it so. Everyone starts off being part of the “inside” - part of the larger group. It is only after something happens that either forces the child - or the nation - to rebel and become part of something else in order to gain acceptance. This is a result of not being taught according to their own, unique way, the way each person needs to be taught. It was the lack of special education by teachers, parents and others who could influence and nurture the child according to his or her special needs. This is a huge responsibility, but knowing the upside of such quality education, we must all embrace it with the greatest of sensitivities and the utmost time and devotion necessary for the future success of each and every one of us.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*The Zohar lit. "Splendor" or "Radiance" is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology. The Zohar contains discussions of the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, redemption, the relationship of Ego to Darkness and "true self" to "The Light of God", and the relationship between the "universal energy" and man. Its scriptural exegesis can be considered an esoteric form of the Rabbinic literature known as Midrash, which elaborates on the Torah.

The Zohar first appeared in Spain in the 13th century, and was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de León. De León ascribed the work to Shimon bar Yochai ("Rashbi"), a rabbi of the 2nd century during the Roman persecution who, according to Jewish legend, hid in a cave for thirteen years studying the Torah and was inspired by the Prophet Elijah to write the Zohar. This accords with the traditional claim by adherents that Kabbalah is the concealed part of the Oral Torah.


Parshas Shoftim - Hold onto the Program!!!         6 Elul 5778

08/17/18 16:06:02


A standard practice in many venues of entertainment have the guests or ticket holders receive a program or playbill which is a small booklet distributed to the patrons who are arriving to attend a live theater performance, festival, sports event, etc. The program contains an overview of all the portions of the event, an outline describing the backgrounds of the principle performers, and, in the case of theatrical productions a brief overview of the plot and even a short history of the play and the playwright. Truth be told, I am pretty sure that most people who attend an event such as a symphony, opera, concert, sports event, graduation ceremony, and the like know very well who and what they will be watching. Put differently, as people enter the hall or room, they are handed a playbill or program that contains information they are already familiar with!

I’ve pondered over this and thought perhaps this could be considered to be a souvenir - like a party gift - to remember the event being attended. Highly unlikely idea since most of these booklets are strewn on the floor, stuffed in between the seats, or tossed into a recycling pile at the exit areas upon leaving the theater. In addition to not needing the program later, I usually don’t really need it even five minutes into the show. I, for one, read the entire playbill at least once through before the curtain comes down. For goodness sake we ARE at the performance; we don’t need the paper bills and information. I propose that instead of giving these things out prior to a performance, they should be distributed to the people who are not inside in order to lure them into attending a future show. The first theatre program were issued in the mid-nineteenth century in magazine format. The original theatre programme (the formal spelling for these things) first appeared in the 18th century. These early playbills were basic, with only enough pages to list the members of the cast and information regarding the play's locale and settings. They were typically only four pages: the cover, which advertised the show, a back page, which displayed the theatre layout, and the two interior pages which listed all the credits. Not all early programmes were printed; many were written by hand or cut and pasted together from the letters of other printed documents. During the days of the early British theatre, the cast was very important. Audiences were very familiar with leading actors and a particular well-regarded actor would draw a larger crowd. The programme was a kind of contract between the theatre and the audience, because if an audience paid to see a particular actor and that actor was not performing, there was immediate risk of crowd hissing, orange and rotten tomato throwing, or even rioting. This sometimes resulted in property damage and physical assault. Program bills in sports contain a lot of information that an individual isn’t necessarily familiar with, giving a person something to do during the intermission or breaks of the game.

Let’s take a fresh look at this phenom of our culture and daily life. A person who attends one of these happenings most probably already has an interest in the event. Having an interest in something usually means the person has some background and information they will be observing. Most of the information and knowledge they have is from the home and reserved for the home. More people listen to cultural events or sporting games at home than at the hall or stadium. The full range of detail is at home, while only a selection of the event will be viewed or heard live while attending. The playbill or program is that exact selection, helping the viewer to keep a focus on the program. This idea of having something more permanent at home and something light or temporary on the road is found in this week’s Torah portion.

There is a unique and special Mitzva for the king of Israel to have his own sefer Torah accompany him all the time. In this week’s Parshas Shoftim, the Torah states in Devarim 17:18 “V’Haya K‘Shivto Al Kisei Mamlachto, V’Kasav Lo Es Mishnei HaTorah HaZos Al Sefer, Milifnei Haohanim HaLeviim. V’Haysa Imo V’Kara Vo Kal Yemei Chayav, L’Maan Yilmad L’Yirah Es Hashem Elokav Lishmor Es Kal Divrei HaTorah HaZos V’Es HaChukim HaEileh Laasosam”: “When the king is established on his royal throne, he must write a copy of this Torah as a scroll edited by the Levitical priests. This scroll must always be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life”. The commentaries as why this verse opens with the word ‘Imo’ – ‘with him” (Lashon Nekeiva) grammatically in the feminine, and end with the words ‘V’Kara Vo’ (Lashon Zachar) ‘with him’ grammatically in the masculine?

The *Daas Zekeinim explains that not everyone is in agreement regarding the type of Torah the king of Israel carried. He says the Melech carried a Torah, a scroll that only had the Aseres HaDibros - the Ten commandments. From the beginning words of “Anochi Hashem Elokecha, Shmos 20:2 “I am Hashem your God” until Shmos 20:14 the word Reiacha (your neighbor’s) contains six hundred thirteen letters corresponding to the six hundred thirteen Mitzvos contained in the Torah. Therefore, it has the status to be called a ‘Sefer Torah’.

The Gemara Sanhedrin 21b tells us the king has two Torahs: one in his house or his palace, which was a complete Torah as we know it, perhaps the same reason every Jew has a Mitzva to write a sefer Torah and keep it in his house. The second Torah, which had only the Ten Commandments, was taken when the king traveled. He kept it with him wherever and whenever he went. Now, since the Aseres HaDibros is only one Parsha (section), the word Parsha itself is in the female form. Therefore, that Torah was ‘imo’ –‘with him’ - in the feminine. On the other hand, the Torah in his house was a complete ‘sefer’. The Hebrew word sefer is masculine and refers to the Torah in the verse V’kara Bo which is also masculine.

This is an important lesson for all of us, including our children and all members of our families to not only have a full Torah at home, but to make sure we procure it on the road as well. The Torah is not just for the home; sometimes it is far more critical to have that spare Torah with us as we travel. Make sure we take the small parts of our Jewish life and apply them when necessary. Pocket the important parts with you at all times.


*Daas Zekeinim, which means the knowledge of the elders, was written by one of the Baalei Tosafot. Some say the commentary on Chumash was authored by Rabbeinu Tam who was the grandson of Rashi.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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


Parshas Re'eh - Too Much Sugar Isn't So Good         29 Av 5778

08/10/18 09:25:40


Candy, candy, candy! Every kids’ dream diet. A universal custom in almost every Shul is to have at least one candy man who has a seemingly endless supply of sweets for children of all ages (typically from three until ninety- three). A second universal custom in almost every Shul is the throwing of candy at an aufruf, the Aliyah a groom receives the week before his wedding, or at the Shabbat Chattan which, in the Sephardic tradition, the Chattan is called up to the Torah the Shabbat following his wedding. On a similar vein there is also the custom to throw candy to/at a *bar/bat Mitzva boy or girl. Showering the new groom or the bar/bat mitzvah with sweets is a beautiful way to send a message of happy sweetness as they enter a new, major chapter in their lives. As the anticipation grows for the release of the candies, all the children position themselves to swoop in and grab as much candy as they can hold. Or chew. It is amazing how quickly the floor gets cleaned up. In fact, so quickly that I can’t help but make my usual corny remark, ”We now continue with Yekum Purkan as the grounds’ crew just finished another amazing clean-up.

The annual Shavuos night candy grab is unique at Beth Jacob. Those who do not know about this annual event should make it their business to be at Beth Jacob for Shavuos. I will stop at that. A new custom has sort of arisen at the Shul: a kiddush sponsored celebrating the birth of a baby girl. This ‘new’ tradition includes cupcakes and an accompanying smorgasbord of sweet, spicy, gooey, array of candy choices for kids to load up on. At the most recent kiddush in honor of the birth of a baby girl, I overheard a parent say to her four-year old child, his pockets overflowing with candy, “I think you’ve had enough sugar for today.” Is it any wonder why our children are so charged up? Children have enough natural energy in their bodies without needing a sugar boost to their systems. It is interesting to note how even infants enjoy something sweet. Yet, as we get older our tastes change and sometimes we remark about an icing or cake that “is too sweet”. Ever hear a child say something is too sweet?

The human body begins its constant change from birth. From the moment we are born until the last breath before we die, our bodies are constantly adjusting to our new weight, height and shifting metabolism. We don’t feel the subtle change from day to day, but from one decade of our life to the next we experience a fluctuation in our bodies’ vital signs. The effects of change in life typically do not manifest themselves immediately. The results of a good habit or bad habit are rarely detected early. It takes years before we realize or begin to feel the effects, whether positive or negative. With regard to sugar, most children are not negatively affected by the consumption of sugar as their bodies tend to burn it off. As we age, however, our metabolism slows, requiring more exercise and less intake of sugar in order to burn off enough calories to keep us from gaining weight. Sugar is so sweet, yet can be deadly. So, too, in religious life and the Torah. There are certain issues, tests, and challenges that we face as a people who are sometimes looking for something too good to be true.

In this week’s Parshas Re’eh the Torah states in Devarim 13:2: “Ki Yakum B’Kirbecha Navi O Choleim Chalome, V’Nasan Eilecha Os O Mofeis.”. “This is what you must do when a prophet or a person who has visions in a dream arises among you. He may present you (or predict) with a sign or miracle, and based on that sign or miracle say to you, ‘Let us try out a different god. Let us serve it and have a new spiritual experience.” These verses are the warning against following a false prophet. Despite the possible miracle or great feat they may do in the beginning, one must look at how it all comes out in the end. Rashi explains the two words ‘sign’ and ‘miracle’. The sign refers to a sign in the heavens; the miracle or wonder referring to something on earth. Nevertheless, despite the performance or even validation of a prediction, one shall not hearken to him (the false prophet). The Ramban and others ask, “Why does Hashem grant the false prophet the power to show a sign?” Rashi concludes, ”For Hashem your God uses it to test you, to turn away from the false prophet and follow Hashem.” The Rashbam and Ramban explain that there are a few people who have a special gift to know the future, but a spirit of impurity influences them to prophecy. This was the power of the prophets of the non-Jews such as the magicians and sorcerers in Pharoah’s court. The sefer Torah U’L’Moadim enlightens us that these are the two reasons a person could rationalize something that is the antithesis of Torah, causing him to stray from the true Torah. The two reasons a person strays are (1) misinformation or false wisdom and knowledge and (2)pure desire and craving. These reasons follow the principles of do not follow our eyes and heart, and thoughts based upon falsehoods and desire are born out of apostasy, which the intellect tends to do. The eyes can see the good, but they are simultaneously able to see the bad. We need to be the chochom (sage/wise person) who is able to look to the future and understand what will come based upon decisions made today.

In life, things don’t necessarily emerge in the end looking as good as they did at the beginning. Sugar seems to be a wonderful treat in the beginning but may cumulatively not be good for us later. A Navi Sheker leads a person down a false path while a true Tzadik,or Talmid Chacham, realizes that the end may not seem as sweet as it was at the start. There are times when difficult, unpleasant decisions need to be made before in order to avoid worse outcomes later. Rabbis need to take a stand on certain issues that are viewed as being too harsh, devoid of the sweetness we enjoy. This may result in the Rabbi or leader becoming less popular. Nevertheless he is trying to evade a much worse outcome later down the road.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


The original custom to throw candy at an Aliyah to the Torah was only for a groom as he approaches his marriage, wishing him a sweet new life with a new wife as an additional component. This custom did not originally apply to a bar or bat mitzvah child transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Nevertheless, the custom evolved to include the bar or bat mitzvah as well.

Parshas Eikev - It's Good to the Last Drop & Extend Your Life         22 Av 5778

08/03/18 08:52:54


I am one of millions of people worldwide who enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Saying a Bracha before the first sip only creates a greater anticipation of that satisfying taste and feel. The extent of excitement for the first sip is equal to the depth of disappointment when taking the very last sip. Even though the anticipation for taking that first sip is radically different than the realization that the last sip is about to occur, both are equally tasty and desirable in their own way. Some people drink coffee for its taste while others drink it for the jolt or pick up needed to become fully awake to face the day. This week, I asked someone who at the time was drinking black coffee if he took sugar or any sweetener. He replied, “I don’t even like coffee; it just helps me wake up in the morning.”

I’m not a collector of pins, refrigerator magnets or mugs, but I do enjoy reading the messages on them. Some are cute but others convey deep meaning and insight. The other day I noticed a coffee mug that read ‘A Good Day Is Ahead, First Coffee’. That statement tells a lot about a person, his need for that cup of coffee and the accompanying outlook regarding his day. The phrase could imply that just one cup of coffee in the morning provides positive physical or mental health. Scientists are constantly researching and studying the effects of different foods and beverages, evaluating whether they are beneficial or harmful to our health. An article appeared in the July 2nd issue of Healthy Day News. stating that people having a morning cup of java -- and another and another -- might prolong your life. In fact, drinking lots of coffee – as much as eight or nine cups a day - was associated with a lower risk of early death. Furthermore, to reap the benefit, it makes no difference if your coffee is decaf or caffeinated, instant or brewed! "This study may provide reassurance to coffee drinkers," said lead researcher Erikka Loftfield, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. But Loftfield cautioned that because this was an observational study, it be stated that coffee caused people to live longer. However, the researchers did conclude that people who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day had a 14 percent lower risk of dying over a 10-year period of study compared with those who did not drink coffee. The Mayo Clinic reports that recent studies have generally found no connection between coffee and an increased risk of heart disease or cancer. In fact, some studies have found an association between coffee consumption and decreased overall mortality, possibly including cardiovascular mortality, although this may not be true in younger people who drink large amounts of coffee.

Why the apparent reversal in the thinking about coffee? Earlier studies didn't always consider that known high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers. Studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease, including liver cancer. Coffee also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.

The benefits of long life give us more opportunity to learn Torah, perform more Mitzvos and increase the good in the world by contributing to it. One major commandment for attaining long life is honoring parents. The Mitzva of honoring one’s mother and father was read last Shabbos in VaEschanan, but the reward of long life is mentioned in this week’s parsha Eikev which records the second paragraph of Shema. It states in Parshas Eikev, Devarim 11:21 “L’Maan Yirbu Yimeichem Vimei B’Neichem Al Ha’Adama Asher Nishba Hashem La’Avoseichem Laseis Lahem, imei HaShamayim Al HaAretz”: “If you do this (honor your mother and father), you and your children will long endure on the land that God swore to your ancestors, promising that He would give it to them as long as the heavens are above the earth”. In reality, the reward for long life is mentioned by the commandment, the extension of life mentioned here is to be in the land of Israel. Is there a connection between reciting of the Shema and long life?

The Shema declares the relationship between Hashem and the individual Jew and vice versa. This relationship is then transmitted from one generation to the next by teaching Torah every step of the way during our lifetime. The emphasis on following and observing Mitzvos strengthens the connection we have to Hashem and to our future generations. The sav Sofer explains the comparison of the days of heaven to the land of Israel. Eretz Yisrael is a holy place, thereby encouraging readiness to serve Hashem. For this reason it is meritorious to live in Israel in order to more easily connect to God. The Torah testifies that the Land of Israel is an atonement for those who dwell upon it. There is an influence that the land has on the people and the people have on the land. If the Jews observe the Torah in Eretz Yisrael it adds blessing to the land from which, in turn, the people benefit. The Ksav Sofer, Reb Shmuel Sofer, lived in the nineteenth century in Pressburg, far from the land of Israel. I have no doubt that the lesson of fulfilling the Torah helps establish a sanctity to a place, bringing blessings to the people who live there. The length and expanse of heaven is great, providing rain for the growth of the land which provides sustenance and life, influencing the people who benefit from it. There is a continuity from one generation to the next of passing down the traditions and teachings of the Torah. The words and teachings from the earlier generations are identical in taste and sweetness to the latter generations.

We recite Shema twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. The morning Shema is not better or more powerful than the evening one, nor is the evening Shema more powerful than the Shema recited in the morning. They equally reinforce the bond and relationship we and our children have to Hashem. This is analogous to the first and last sip of coffee and to the first and last cups of the day. The health benefits extend the entire day, impacting all the days of a person’s life. As we acquire the taste for a good cup of coffee, we cherish every sip. As the saying from Maxwell House states, “It’s good to the last drop.” This quote not only applies to coffee; perhaps its source stems from the delicious taste of Torah. From the very first words to the very last words of Torah a person learns in this world, every single taste of learning Torah forms the Elixir of Life!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEschanan - Re-SEEDing                  14 Av 5778

07/26/18 16:36:21


Growing up in New York city, I never developed an appreciation for agriculture. We had a small patch of grass that made up our lawn which was totally maintained by Tony the Landscaper. I never really developed a ‘green thumb’; the total extent of my interaction with trees, or anything green, was my Friday afternoon job: dusting off the leaves of the tree in the living room in honor of Shabbos!

Moving to California changed my perspective of agriculture because we had a lemon tree in the backyard. Lucky for me (not that I knew any differently), I didn’t have to do a thing to the tree and lo and behold big, beautiful lemons popped off the tree for years. Until there was trouble. From December 2011 to March 2017, the state of California experienced one of the worst droughts to occur in the region on record. The period between late 2011 and 2014 was the driest in California history since record-keeping began. 102 million trees died in total; 62 million died in 2016 alone.

One day during the summer of 2016, I stared at my lemon tree, suddenly realizing that two-thirds of the tree was dead. I was stunned. The issue of the drought didn’t register with me until that very moment. Sure, my water bill had gone up and we stopped watering the lawn, but the fact that my lemon tree was almost dead was unbelievable. At that point I pruned the tree, started watering it every day,, and last week bought garden soil specifically for citrus trees. The tree has a little more life to it but still has a way to go to reach its former days of glory. The front lawn, on the other hand, received a few spritzes of water a few times a week. Most of the grass turned brown, leaving patches of earth exposed. With no end in sight, I thought about ridding the lawn of natural grass and installing a water-free landscape.

The drought came to an official abrupt end and one year later the grass slowly started to rejuvenate. I thought of asking the gardener to re-seed the entire lawn to speed up the process, but I never did. Nevertheless, the grass is slowly growing stronger, but it is not really creating new grass where it had completely dried up. It would require tilling the earth, re-seeding, and watering daily, as though there had never previously been any grass in those areas. I marveled at the once-mighty lawn: a lawn with strong blades of grass boasting a rich deep green color that covered the entire area like a beautiful plush carpet. Now the lawn was alive but due to the lack of water it was drained of its previous vitality, its physical life drying up before my eyes. This condition could be reversed by nourishing the earth with the nutrients it once had and providing daily sustenance such as water and the grooming of its physical body. I came to realize that the lawn had another life, perhaps it was Techiyas HaMeisim, a revival of the dead!

In 2018 every Jew has challenges within their daily lives. Life is always changing and although I am pretty much the same person, I don’t necessarily do the same things I did in the past. By and large everyone I know at one point or another has ups and downs in their religious and spiritual journeys. Many of us go through periods of drought when the demands of life cause us to lose focus on areas of our spiritual beings which require focused care, attention and nurturing. For many of us who have flourished in learning, davening, minyan attendance, doing chessed, performing mitzvos, we have forgotten to keep ourselves “watered”, failing to realize how dry and almost dead we’ve become. It takes awareness of a drought in order to nurse the tree back to its former time of producing the juiciest most delicious fruit. No one should ever think that it is too late; it is never too late to get back and revive ourselves. We are also all intimately connected to the need to be nurtured; like a beautiful fruit tree, we need to conscientiously care for our human roots, branches and leaves. Never give up hope. It’s never too late to put an end to our spiritual drought, as we see in the following narrative from the Navi.

The Navi Yeshayahu in 22:13 states: And behold joy and happiness, slaying cattle and slaughtering sheep, eating meat and drinking wine; ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die.” Rashi explains that Hashem is mourning while the Jews are eating and rejoicing. Instead of worrying about their fate and fearing God’s word, they mocked the prophets and rejoiced. They rejoiced and said, “Since we will eventually die, let us make merry and rejoice as long as we are alive in this world. They said the Nevi’im told them in the name of Hashem that we will not have a share in the World to Come; therefore let us enjoy ourselves during our lifetime.” The Jews at the time believed in the afterlife; they believed that there is a World to Come, but they also believed that they would not have a portion in it. Hundreds of years later, Rambam penned the Thirteen Principles of which one believes with perfect faith that there will be a resurrection in the times of Mashiach. In Judaism there is no denial of another life, but in context of the Navi cited earlier, the Jews at the time felt they were not entitled to it, not that they didn’t believe in it.

We believe life is not only in this world but continues into the next world as pointed out in the Torah. In this week’s Parsha VaEschanan the Torah states in Devarim 4:4: “V’Atem HaDveikim Ba’Hashem Elokeichem, Chayim Kulchem HaYom”. Only you, the ones who remained attached to God your Lord, are all alive today.” The words ‘alive today’ connote today - here in this world and today - in the next world. With reference to the words ‘are all alive today’ the Gemara in Sanhedrin teaches us that the same way you are alive today (physically), so, too, you will be alive in the next world (spiritually). From this we see a hint, or even a proof, that Techiyas HaMeisim - revival of the dead - is a Torah principle.

The Midrash Rabbah 17:6 offers a parable to help us more clearly understand how we can attain this life. Someone who is cast off into the water, The captain of a ship grabs a rope and calls out to a drowning man,”Grab onto this rope with your hand so that I can hoist you up onto the boat or pull you to dry land. Hold tight! Do not let go of the rope! If you let go of the rope, you will have no life.” So, too, Hashem says to B’Nei Yisrael, “As long as you hold onto the Mitzvos and cling to the Torah, then you will live; if not, you are choosing to forego your life in this world and the next.”

Baruch Hashem, I am so pleased how many members have started to address the spiritual drought issue by participating in our annual SEED program. All it takes is some will and desire to cut away the dead parts and add some new ideas and nourish your soul to eat, drink and live for today and continue to eat, drink and live for tomorrow.                                       

Ah Gut Shabbos    Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

Parshas Devarim - Is the Beis HaMikdash still here?                  8 Av 5778

07/20/18 08:33:33


A few years ago I wrote about trying to save time, which ultimately led me to break the item I was attempting to work with, thereby spending more time and money than if I had not tried to take a shortcut. I guess God needed to send me another reminder of sorts as I attempted to separate frozen hamburgers with a knife. Instead of planning ahead and letting the burgers defrost, I used a knife that not only split the hamburger meat but also continued to efficiently split my finger. For the next few days I felt the loss of mobility and the inconvenience and challenges resulting from this shortcut. Nevertheless, I know that as my finger healed (Baruch Hashem) I slowly forgot the pain and suffering I experienced. Unfortunately, we tend to forget how bad things were at times and lose the appreciation we should have. Before long I will completely forget that it even happened, and will take for granted the blessing to have functioning fingers on my hand.

Now, forgetting something bad or hurtful that occurred is one level of not appreciating something. It’s a completely different level, however, to forget the good someone did for us. Last week a fundraising campaign went public for a woman in our community who is battling breast cancer. It happens to be that her husband has always been helpful to me, the Shul, and the community at large. He could be called upon for his services whenever necessary and he would always say, “for you Rabbi?” or “for the Synagogue? Of course!” Why did it take something of tragic proportions such as his wife becoming ill and needing help for me to stop and recognize that I should have had more Hakaras HaTov (recognition of the good). When it occurred to me how nice he was to me and the way he helps the community, I immediately donated to help his family. More importantly than the donation was the difficult but gratifying phone call I made to speak with him. I called the husband and apologized for not reaching out earlier to inquire about his wife’s health, and more so, to offer any assistance. I thought to myself better late than never and was glad to make the call despite it being long overdue. He is such a nice person that he said thank you and there was no need for me to apologize.

There is a famous question: is it better to have had something and lose it, or never have had it in the first place? Although that statement is about love, it can be applied to anything and everything in life. I’ve given two illustrations with one similar message: we must remember what we have and second, knowing we have something, we must also appreciate it. The reason we have difficulty mourning the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is because we don’t’ know what we had and move over, when we did have it, we didn’t appreciate it. Since we, the people of our generation, never had the experience of Jewish life with a Beis HaMikdash we don’t feel the loss of not having it. It is difficult to feel we are missing something when we have never had it. Interestingly, we don’t have as much difficulty connecting to the holidays of the year, which are also rooted and intimately connected to the Beis HaMikdash. In reality, the days of mourning and the festivals of the year are intertwined more than we think.

Rav Chaim Elazar Spira, the Munkatcher Rebbe, in his sefer Minchas Eluzar writes that the three Shabbosos of the Bein HaMitzarim (the 3 weeks) are parallel to the Shalosh Regalim of Pesach, Shavuos and Sukos. Following this line of thinking, the Opta Rav, in his sefer Ohaiv Yisrael, says that the twenty-one days between the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av are sourced and rooted to all the festivals and holidays of the year. All the days of the Yomim Tovim added together equal twenty-one days. All these days of mourning the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash have the holiness and greatness of the special holidays we observe throughout the year.

Now we can see that these three weeks of pain and sorrow will turn into festivals like the three weeks of holidays celebrated throughout the year. Both sets of twenty-one days are filled with light and joy, the only difference is that right now the “three weeks” are covered with darkness, but the actual days are really full of light. Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, Admor of Apta, in his sefer Ohaiv Yisrael, writes in Parshas Devarim that Shabbos Chazone is the greatest Shabbos of the year! The Ruzhiner Rebbe explained that from this Shabbos Chazone (definition of ‘Chazone’ is ‘to see’, as in prophecy) we can see what will happen looking forward to the coming year. This is not only perception; it is, in fact, a reality of change from sorrow to happiness. How do we change from one to the other?

In this week’s Parshas Devarim the Torah states in 1:1: “Eileh HaDevarim Asher Diber Moshe El Kal Yisrael…” “These are the words that Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel…..”. Rashi explains these words were words of rebuke. Instead of openly stating the sins that the Jewish people committed, Moshe mentions the places where the Jews angered God. Due to the honor of B’Nei Yisrael, Moshe spoke through imbedded hints. This explanation is a bit difficult because later on in 1:22 Moshe actually lists the sins themselves! For example, it states: “Vatikrevun Eilai ulchem VaTomeru Nishlecha Anashim L’Faneinu, V’Yachperu Lanu Es Ha’Aretz.” - “All of you then approached me and said, ‘Send men ahead of us to explore the land. Let them bring back a report about the way ahead of us and the cities that we shall encounter.” In Devarim 9:16 it states: “I immediately saw that you had sinned to God your Lord, making a cast calf. You were so quick to turn from the path that God your Lord had prescribed.” In fact, Moshe goes on to list many of the actual sins e places where they took place. To further elaborate on Rashi’s explanation of Moshe’s words of rebuke, as long as the Jews did not repent, Moshe did not want to mention the sins they had committed, but rather only the places where those sins were committed. Moshe did not want to leave the people exposed to accusations and prosecution. However, after the Jews repented, it was a different story. When they did Teshuva out of love for Hashem, those intentional sins were converted to merits. Therefore, Moshe wanted to enumerate each and every sin, not only the places where they occurred, so that all of those sins would be considered as merits for the Jewish people.

There is tremendous light and goodness in this world, albeit sometimes it is covered and hidden from our eyes and minds. We need seek truth and the light (which is here for us to find) in this world where the light is currently covered. Let us remember what it’s like to have something and recognize the good in everyone and that through this recognition of good we will fully understand that we all benefit. By doing this we will merit the removal of the covering of the light and bask in the glory that has, is, and will always be here

Parshas Matos/Maasei - I Stand Corrected             1 Av 5778

07/13/18 08:36:44


Years ago when I was just beginning my career, one of my biggest critics, who also happened to be one of my biggest supporters, gave me some invaluable advice. I got up to speak between Mincha and Maariv and attempted to teach/learn with the minyan. I approached the podium, quietly looking over the material, and bumbled my way through the brief interlude of learning. After the services, this individual put his arm around my shoulder and squarely looked me in the eye and said, “If you are not prepared to speak, then don’t.” That was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received in my life; I understood that his input was meant to be constructive and it came from his heart. Since that time, I have been consistently careful to follow his sage words. Nevertheless, a different kind of challenge arises from time to time when teaching.

Generally speaking, I encourage and even ask if anyone has any questions. Occasionally, someone asks a question that is directly on the topic and I can handle the question. But there are times when I am caught off guard, finding myself without a clear answer. My slip-up is that I may to try to give an answer without properly researching the material. Sometimes, I do give the correct answer on the spot, but there have been other times when it should have stated, “I’m not sure about this. I will get back to you.” There is a human tendency towards Gaava (haughtiness), offering answers without total knowledge of the material. Sure enough, a few weeks ago I fell into this trap, only this time I really thought I knew the correct answer. Actually, I’m still convinced I was right, even though I am wrong as is clearly stated in Halacha. Someone asked a related question to the material I was prepared to teach, and I gave an answer. Someone in the crowd, (a noted Torah scholar) with great respect sheepishly quoted the opposite of what I had just said. I responded, reiterating my position, emphatically stating that I was correct. During Maariv the gentleman showed me the Halacha, explaining that my response to the question was dead wrong on the Halachic side, but perhaps correct within the spirit of the law. In the end, however, I was wrong. And I felt defeated!

When it comes to Torah and Toras Emes - the truth of Torah - there is no defeat (maybe some agony, but no certainly no defeat). In the realm of Torah and Halacha, we seek out the truth even though it may injure our pride. Immediately after Maariv (I was afraid that by the next day some of the attendees might not be present to hear the clarification), I got everyone’s attention before they dispersed, I said, “I stand corrected. I was wrong,” and proceeded to acknowledge the correct course of action for that Halacha and thanked the person for pointing it out. After the fact, my pride was not hurt. To the contrary, I was proud to admit the mistake and have clarity in the Torah.

I feel that in today’s day and age this is a sticking point that leads to Machlokes - unnecessary disputes and arguments - that lead to an undercurrent of hatred among our people. We should challenge ourselves to face reality of the statement: ‘How can it be everyone is right, and no one is wrong?’ Even when two people are arguing, and one clearly has a stronger argument, it is difficult for the person with the weaker argument to step down and admit defeat. Our egos cloud our judgment, making it difficult to analyze an alternative viewpoint with clarity. Nevertheless, I can understand why a person may believe he is right and the other individual is wrong. I think the message is a bit deeper than thinking I am right and he is wrong. The greatest challenge to our ego is when we are ultimately arguing within our own head. The internal struggle of ‘I am right, and I can do this or that’ while my alter-ego challenges and argues, professing, ’No! You are wrong and the correct thing to do is the exact opposite of what you are thinking!’ It’s the two-sided battle over who is right and who is wrong when the only person in this battle is you. This comes out when we say one thing, but we think and know that the opposite is true. Do we own up to our mistaken analysis of the situation, or are we not strong enough to do so, maintaining that which we said or thought initially is acceptable? This Shabbos we will read something similar to this situation. Its pertinence to the nine days should be clear.

In the first of the two parshios of Matos/Masei which we read this week, the Torah states in Bamidbar 30:3: “Ish Ki Yidor Neder LaHashem, O Hishava Shvua Lessor Issar Al Nafsho, Lo Yacheil D’Varo, Chol HaYotzay MiPiv YaAseh”. “If a man makes a vow to God or makes an oath to obligate himself, he must not break his word. He must do all that he expressed verbally”. If someone says he is going to do something and he doesn’t do it, or says he is not going to do something and he does it, he is breaking his word. The word ‘yacheil loosely translated means ‘break’, but it has greater significance; it means to turn it into the mundane. Our mouths are holy and the words that come out of our mouths are holy. When we don’t hold up to that, we are desecrating our words, as in a chilul Hashem. The Shela”h HaKadosh says that angels are created from our words; good words create good angels, and the opposite is also true. The Chasam Sofer writes that not only someone who vows with his mouth is responsible to follow through; even a thought of doing something obligates us to fulfill it although we can claim that we never said we would do such and such.

Every individual needs to be honest with himself. By committing to something, we must follow through, and if the first part is wrong, then one needs to stand up and correct the situation right then and there. If we make a statement or even think of one and then realize it is wrong, we should stand up to our error and correct it even when it may be uncomfortable. If we become consciously careful with regards to what we say we will or will not do, we will decrease the desecration of our commitment. This, in turn, will create the impetus to be careful with regards to how and what we speak about others. Let’s strive to ‘stand corrected’ so the Beis HaMikdash will also ‘stand corrected’ speedily in our time.

Parshas Pinchas - Celebrate with Hashem & Rebuild His Home          23 Tammuz 5778

07/06/18 12:23:17


We are all too familiar with “Bein HaMetzraim” - literally translated as ‘between the troubles’, and figuratively translated as ‘the three weeks’. For centuries, the focus for all of us during this time has been to figure out how to bring about the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of our Beis HaMikdash.

We know that the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash was caused by Sinas Chinam – unwarranted hatred amongst Jews. It should be obvious that to reverse the decree of our expulsion and exile there must be Ahavas Chinam: to love Jews for no particular reason – just to accept each other, respect and love each other as one people. That, in and of itself, is challenging. For the past number of decades there has been a tremendous effort to try to curb the damage that one Jew can do to his fellow Jew simply by watching his speech. Year after year there have been campaigns to teach and to encourage the laws of Lashon Hara – literally translated to mean ‘evil tongue’ or learning how not to speak derogatorily about each other. We all understand that we must be careful about what we say in order to prevent harm from being done to another person. Not only should we actually study the laws of proper speech; we need to work on our middos – character traits – as outlined in the sifrei mussar, books of moral character such as Orchos Tzadikim.

These Seforim were written only a few hundred years ago. What did people turn to learn from prior to their existence? The learning of Mussar, or books on Middos, are teachings drawn from the Torah itself. When we learn about the stories of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon and the like, we are learning how to act properly, modeling from our forefathers. The sefer Pirkei Avos – Sayings of our Fathers – contains all the lessons derived from our forefathers. Avrahom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov lived by those traits. Reb Shlomo Ganzfried, in his work the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 27:3, writes that someone who is unable to learn as his primary focus can at the minimum set aside times to learn the Halacha (laws) that every Jew needs to know. He must understand the Mussar which serve to subjugate the Yetzer Hara. Reb Shlomo Zalman of Liadi in his Shulchan Aruch HaRav Yalkut Torah, 246.2, seems to say that Mussar is included in the category of Talmud. When a person learns Gemara, Mishnah, and Halacha, he is incorporating the ideals of Mussar, thereby working to perfect his character.

During the three weeks we should all conscientiously focus on improving how we interact with others. Rav Gavriel Zinner, in his introduction to the laws of the three weeks, explains a verse from Eicha. In Eicha 2:19 the Navi Yirmiyahu says: “Kumi Roni BaLayla L’Rosh Ashmuros”, “Arise, pray aloud in the night, at the beginning of the watches.” This specifically refers to learning Torah! But, why is this specific to the night? Didn’t Yehoshua in 1:8 already command us to learn Torah day and night? The Ri”f explains that the ‘watches’ refers to the covering up of the judgment that rules at night. While the Temple was functioning, the sacrificial parts and limbs that burned all night on the pyre cooled off God’s judgment. Therefore, Hashem now cries out, “Woe that I destroyed my house” - that He needs a new remedy from us, from the people below. For the Gemara in Menachos 110 teaches that now that the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, the learning of the laws of the Olah, the offering, is as if we offered the Olah. We see the great effect and benefit of Torah study. Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv, in the Kedushas Levi on Shevuos, writes, ”How great is the completion of a tractate or Siyum Mesechta, so much so that a great feast was made in celebration of its completion.” Yet, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv asks, “Is the simcha and joy now finished because the learning is finished?” In this week’s parsha Pinchas Rashi explains that the Yom Tov of Shmini Atzeres, the extra day that Hashem needs to spend with those who are closest to Him even after the joy of Sukkos, is defined as ‘Kashe Alai Pridaschem’: ‘Your departure is difficult for me, so before you leave, let’s celebrate’. So, too, after the learning is complete, we hold on just a little longer and celebrate by having a Siyum of the tractate.

The Chidushei HaRim, Rav Yitzchak Meir Rotenberg-Alter, the first rebbe of the Ger Hassidim, stated that there is a specific reason to have a Siyum during these days. By inviting everyone to the celebration of completion of a tractate of learning, we create ahavas chinam - love and harmony between Jews, the antidote to Sinas Chinam – baseless hatred. It was therefore the custom of many tzadikim and gedolim to make Siyumim to increase Torah learning. They taught that learning Torah weakened the strength of impurity and would therefore lead us to deeper purity and eventually to the Geulah – redemption. The Rosh writes that the Rebbe from Ruzhin made a Siyum on Tisha B’Av night after completion of the fast.

The Torah is our map of life and contains all the necessary knowledge for life. Reb Shlomo Luger in the Yam Shel Shlomo writes,”During these days of mourning, the destruction and the pain felt by the Shechina, we must increase the completing of Gemara because there is no greater simcha/joy to Hashem other than the joy of Torah; there is not anywhere Hashem is found in this world except within the four cubits of Halacha.” When we learn Gemara, which is the delving into the laws of how we behave and conduct ourselves – whether between man and God or between man and man – the Halacha is found in the Torah. Mussar and learning of proper middos are built into the learning of the Torah she’b’al peh – the oral Torah – the Talmud.

Let us all commit to learning more Gemara which contains all the necessary ingredients to live our lives accordingly. As we delve into the Talmud we will refine our character, directing our behaviors in an appropriate manner, thereby removing any enmity and bringing about Ahavas Yisroel and the rebuilding of the third Beis HaMikdash with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days!

Parshas Balak - Family Ties16 Tammuz 5778

06/29/18 12:55:38


In modern society, the proverb "blood is thicker than water" implies that family relationships are always more important than relationships with friends. Perhaps more important needs to be rephrased to mean that the strength of the bonds of family withstand time.

I grew up in what we could call the American shtetle of Borough Park where three out of four sets of first cousins all lived within a half-mile walk. We davened in a small Shul where one uncle was the Rabbi, the other the gabbai, and the family made up half of the Shul. We were a very close-knit family and were together every Shabbos. Our other cousins would come for Yom Tov and celebrated some of the national holidays together as well. Both my parents and then a generation later I, too, were the youngest among the siblings of my family. Eventually, as my older cousins married, this homogeneous group started to break apart as they moved away. We all attended our first cousin’s weddings. I, as second to youngest and getting married last, had the next generation of cousins at my wedding.

A few weeks ago I flew to New York to attend a wedding of my first cousin’s child, only the third such wedding out of fifty-seven to take place within the last thirty years. As we moved around earlier in our married life and then moved out West, we rarely had the time, money, or opportunity to attend these family simchos. I felt I needed to be a part of this simcha for a few reasons. My cousin was marrying off his first child at an older age; my mother was like a second mother to this cousin; and I felt that I needed to represent my mother at this wedding which she surely would have loved to have attended. Those reasons are what drove me to go in the first place, but it was only when I arrived at the wedding itself that I truly appreciated being together with many, but not all, of my first cousins. Many of them are able to see each other regularly or from time to time get together for simchos, but this was my first opportunity to be part of that strong family bond that I knew and enjoyed in my boyhood.

Even though I am now a middle-aged man with my own family (ba”h), I sat at the table during the wedding feast, surrounded by my older cousins, feeling small and young again. There was a sense of innocence and attention I received as the youngest at the table within the family that was present. Even though we are not all the same religiously, economically, philosophically, in gender or age, there was no judging of one another. As far apart as the family is physically, we have remained close. The Torah states in Devarm 12:23 “Ki HaDam Hu HaNefesh” - It is blood that is the soul of a person. Similarly, it is the blood connection of relatives that keep us alive and connected as though we’ve never been apart. It is a vibrant lifeline to come to acknowledge that no matter where your family members may be and no matter how long it has been since you last communicated with them, they will always be there for you! Although the scenario I posed deals specifically with my family and me, I think this phenomenon applies most acutely to the Jewish nation as a whole, to the exclusion of all other nations. We are not like the other nations of the world; our greatest characterization is our eternal connection to each other – one people, one Torah, one nation unique in the world. We clearly see this concept in daily life and it is planted in the Torah itself.


In this week’s Torah portion Balak, the Torah states in Bamidbar 23:9: “Ki MeiRosh Tzurim Er’en UMigvaos Ashurenu, Hain Am L’Vadad Yishkone U’VaGoyim Lo Yischashav” : “I see this nation from mountain tops, and gaze on it from the heights. It is a nation dwelling alone at peace, not counting itself among other nations”. As we know, Balak hired Bilaam the wicked to curse the Jewish people, who ended up blessing them according to the will of Hashem. The first of three attempts, Bilaam tries to attack and accuse or label the Jews as a nation that does not get along with everyone else, nor do they want to. Bilaam’s words sound a familiar, but yet quite the opposite of another villain the Jews were to contend with in the future. *Reb Shlomo Ganzfried, in his sefer Apiryon on the Torah, explains that Bilaam’s attacks and accusations against B’Nei Yisrael were the opposite of Haman the wicked. Haman proclaimed to Achashveirosh “There is one nation scattered and separated from all the other nations in your kingdom.” Haman’s intent was to show a lack of unity and harmony amongst the Jews. Furthermore, despite the Jewish people being spread out, one would think that those who are closer together would get along better, clinging to their kin. Nevertheless, even those few who were together, hoping to grow stronger, were actually “M’Forad” - separated from each other. Each Jew distanced himself from his fellow Jew. Therefore, Haman argued that it would not be a big deal to get rid of them.

Bilaam’s words are very similar but with a different twist. Bilaam argued “Hain” - ‘yes’, the Jews have unity and peace, even when they are dwelling within themselves and not with their fellow Jews. It’s a wonder how they get along so well even though they all live separately and have nothing to do with each other. Even though they are living as loners, they get along as if they are living together. The key word of Bilaam’s eventual blessing is in the first word “Hain” –‘yes’. These letters, the ‘hey’ and ‘nun’, represent the sociological underpinning of the Jewish people’s unity. The sequential numbers from one to nine match the ends of the spectrum adding up to ten. Take the first and last numbers one and nine, two and eight, three and seven, and so forth, and you get ten. If you do the same for the two-digit numbers from ten to ninety, you will add each combination to reach one hundred. Each number in the sequence of single and double digits has a partner that connects them with two exceptions. In the single digit sequence, number five (‘hey’) has no partner; in the two-digit sequence, the number fifty (‘nun’), has no partner, but they find each other, coming together as the word ‘Hain’ – ‘Yes’!

The dominance of each Jew is that even when we are alone, we are still connected to someone else. This is the strength of the individual family and the extended family of Klal Yisrael. As we begin the three weeks, we should bring our families closer together and reunite with our Father in Heaven back to the Place that we ALL call HOME!

*Shlomo Ganzfried was born 1804 in Ungvar and died 30 July 1886 in Ungvar. He was an Orthodox rabbi and posek best known as author of the work of Halakha (Jewish law), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch - "The Abbreviated Shulchan Aruch", by which title he is also known.

Ganzfried was born in the Ung County of the Kingdom of Hungary, present-day Ukraine. His father Joseph died when he was eight years old. Ganzfried was considered to be a child prodigy. Ungvar's chief rabbi and Rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Heller, assumed legal guardianship. Heller later moved to the city of Bonyhád, and Ganzfried, then fifteen, followed him. He remained in Heller's yeshiva for almost a decade until his ordination and marriage. After his marriage, Ganzfried worked briefly as a wine merchant.

In 1830, Ganzfried abandoned commerce, accepting the position of Rabbi of Brezovica. In 1849 he returned to Ungvar as a dayan, a judge in the religious court. At that time Ungvar's spiritual head, Rabbi Meir Ash, was active in the Orthodox camp, in opposition to the Neologs. Through serving with Ash, Ganzfried realized that in order to remain committed to Orthodoxy, "the average Jew required an underpinning of a knowledge of practical halakha (Jewish law)". It was to this end that Ganzfried composed the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This work became very popular and was frequently reprinted in Hebrew and in Yiddish. Rabbi Ganzfried remained in the office of Dayan until his death on July 30, 1886.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

Parshas Chukas - Is Legal Good or Bad?         9 Tammuz 5778 

06/22/18 13:02:02


German autobahns have no federally mandated speed limit for some classes of vehicles. However, limits are posted (and enforced) in areas that are urbanized, substandard, accident-prone, or under construction. On speed-unrestricted stretches, an advisory speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) applies. While, in the absence of a speed limit, going faster is not illegal, doing so can cause an increased liability in the case of an accident; courts have ruled that an "ideal driver" who is exempt from absolute liability for "inevitable" tort under the law should not exceed Richtgeschwindigkeit, the advisory speed. Everyone agrees that just because there is no speed limit, does not mean it is safe to drive at exceedingly high speeds. Although there is no speed limit that will incur a penalty if caught, nevertheless it is agreed upon that it is dangerous.

One of my many rules in life is “just because it is permissible, do you necessarily have to do it”. Just because there may not be a speed limit posted, you still should not drive at high speeds. Most rules and laws do have parameters and exceptions to the rule. Today in America, medical marijuana is legal in twenty-nine states, provided it is used to help those individuals who need it to combat a host of medical and psychological illness. Unfortunately, we have opened a pandora’s box. To date, nine states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana. According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, sixty-one percent of Americans say they believe the drug should be legal. In my humble opinion the greatest challenge to the greatest country on earth, the United States of America, is the legalizing of ‘recreational marijuana’. This drug to date has the potential to dismantle and destroy family structure, commerce productivity and a rise in fatal drug addiction. Let me reiterate: this is only about recreational - not medical – marijuana prescribed to be used under the care of a licensed medical professional. I am blown away by comments supporting the usage of cannabis in food production, and other forms of intake because “it is legal”. Again, just because something is ‘legal’ does not make it something good, nor does it imply that we should use or “do” it. Someone recently asked me about using cannabis as an ingredient for something. I responded to them, “Let’s wait three years to see the effects and damage it causes before jumping on the bandwagon of users.” Truth be told, we don’t need to wait three years because this is not a new drug at all. Over five years ago Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski spoke about the differences and dangers of marijuana: Surely, anyone can try to argue, but are we willing to take the risk? Not I! The fight to keep marijuana legal is driven by the potential for massive financial gains. Last year alone, the states that have legalized the drug raked in an estimated one billion dollars in taxes. If legal throughout the country, taxes collected are projected to be forty-six billion dollars annually. There are many arguments on both sides, but studies have shown the toxic effect on the brain when used by children in their adolescent years – a period when their brain cells are rapidly developing.

These are only a few reasons why we must take the time to recognize the danger and, despite being legal or because it is legal, we should have concerns regarding use of the drug. In addition, the ‘jury is still out’, meaning we don’t have all the facts yet, and we may never have all the other negatives about using it. We must recognize that we don’t necessarily have all the facts and reasons to any and every situation life presents us. Some argue that if a reason no longer applies to a situation, the status should change. That, in it of itself, may or may not be true. The notion that certain reasons something is good or bad is only that which is revealed to us. There may very well be other reasons that we are not aware of that would keep the status quo despite some earlier reasons which no longer apply. We find this idea throughout the observance of Mitzvos and the following of Halacha. The epitome of this concept originates in the name of the Parsha.

This week’s Parsha Chukas discusses the “chok” or statute that we do not have the logical reasoning to understand why we do a particular Mitzva. It is interesting to note that the Rambam, in Hilchos Meilah chapter 8, says, “It is worthy for every person to be insightful in the ways of the Torah and with all of his strength to know the reasons behind the Mitzvos. In fact, the Rambam wrote a sefer about the Taamei HaMitzvos, the reasons of the commandments. The Ra’ah, Reb Aharon HaLevi, is attributed with writing the sefer HaChinuch, a work which systematically discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah - both Mishpatim, the mitzvos which reasons we can understand, and the Chukim, those mitzvos which we don’t understand, but he does offer suggestions. The Radva”z and other leading Torah giants authored seforim on the reasons for the Mitzvos. Only the Tur in Yoreh Deah Siman 181 challenges the Rambam’s approach and feels we should not seek out the reasons for the Mitzvos. Reb Yakov Ben Asher, the Tur, states that these are the commandments from the King upon us. If we have already accepted the word of God upon us, then we must fulfill every command, even if we do not know the reasons behind them. The Tur further explains that if we start to contemplate, we sometimes feel justified to do or not do a Mitzva, based upon what logic dictates to us. As far as the Rambam is concerned, he feels it is like a small opening, as Dovid HaMelech says in Tehilim 119:130: “The commencement of Your words enlightens; and You make the simple understand”. A small taste (reason) of the Torah sheds a little light to the ones who are not exposed to its beauty. The Rambam indicates that by giving a reason to the unexplained Mitzvos, we are given a way to tempt the uninterested one in Torah. Even according to Rambam, we are not entitled to the reasons for the majority of the statutes. Those are hidden away, only for Hashem to know.

The lesson is critical in today’s day and age, when the culture and society within which we live, constantly looks for reasons to either do or not do something instead of looking at reasons, whether they apply directly to us or not. Let us use our Seichel - our intellect - and basic common sense to guide us through our decision-making process, even if something is mutar/permissible according to Halacha or the Constitution of the United States. By using discretion, a little seichel mixed in with basic common sense, we may come to understand that it still may not be a good idea to go through with it one way or another.

Parshasd Shlach - Nothing Lasts Forever......Except the Torah                              25 Sivan 5778

06/08/18 09:47:34


Throughout our lifetime we witness the coming and going of people, events, and technology. Somethings are here today and gone tomorrow. Yet there are some things that were here before we were born and will still be here after we are gone. Then there are those other categories such as the birth of new venues of entertainment and sporting events, amazing inventions and time-saving contraptions which we attended or make use of, expecting them to last far beyond our life times. It is this last category, things which were created during our lives or beautiful memories, “happenings”, of childhood which we assumed would be around for generations to come that sadden or dismay us when they close or simply cease to be. We are dismayed at the closing or ending of something that predated our arrival, assuming that and just as they were here from time immemorial, they will still be here till the end of time. Not true!

I am sure there are dozens of examples that highlight this notion. I will share three of them with you. All of us alive today were around when the circus came to town. Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth ran for one hundred forty-six years, reinventing itself over time. When the show closed in January 2017, I wondered how that could be?! The circus was here and will always be here. Who could imagine that it has ceased to exist! The circus, especially Ringling Brothers’, was an American icon for decades and decades, entertaining generations and generations of children and their happy parents. Yet it closed.

Last week, the general manager of a successful national basketball team, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors, spoke to reporters on the eve of Game 1, said, “This is going to end soon. I definitely know this is ending.” “I don’t need any reminders. The narrative is, ‘This will go on forever.’ On the record, it can’t. Nothing does, especially in a sport where the competition is so great.” Myers was referring to the incredible and great success that his basketball team has shown over the last few years. It takes a lot of money, hard work, and Mazal to make a championship team, but it is much harder to maintain it forever. Every fan thinks, feels, and wants the success to continue, but it just doesn’t. It can’t. Every fan thinks his team will be different. It is not. The GM is realistic, honest and a person who understands the nature of the beast, but this was all to the dismay of the fans, and even individuals within the organization itself.

The third illustration is not an organization or a company but rather the human being. In every generation there are great leaders, outstanding academics, scientists, teachers, and, yes, even Rabbis! Older congregants particularly feel this (the Rabbi will be here forever) when it comes to pulpit Rabbis who have been with a congregation for decades. When a Rabbi feels the need to retire, congregants may react and say, “Who could possibly take over and be like our Rabbi?!” The Rabbi himself may have some reservations leaving the flock sheperdless or without an adequate replacement. As we look at history through our rear-view mirrors, we know Rabbis will leave and congregants will move on, just as this has happened previously and will continue to happen in the future. But in order to process the potential loss, I am reminded by the insightful words of my rebbe, Rabbi Wein YB”L, who once told me, “No matter how good and dear a Rabbi is to his congregation, no matter how essential a leader may be for any organization, it is not and cannot be forever. Even things which are wonderful and positive have limitations. The notion that all good things must come to an end is seen clearly in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas B’Shalach the Torah states in Bamidbar 14:20-22: “Vayomer Hashem Salchti idvarecha. V’Ulam Chai Ani V’Yimalei K’Vod Hashem Es Kal HaAretz. Ki Kal Ha’Anashim HaRoeem Es mKvodi V’Es Ososai Asher Asisi B’Mitzrayim UVaMidbar, Vay’nasu osi zeh Eser P’Amim, V’Lo Shamu B’Koli”. “God said, ‘I will grant forgiveness as you have requested. But as I am Life, and as God’s glory fills all the world, I will punish all the people who saw my glory and the miracles that I did in Egypt and the desert, but still tried to test Me ten times by not obeying Me”. What are these ten tests with which the Jews tested God in the desert? Rashi explains and lists a few of the tests: two by crossing the Sea of Reeds, two by the manna, and two by the quail. Rashi does not finish the list but informs us the source to be the Gemara Erchin 15a. It is interesting to consider the open question why Rashi either didn’t complete the list or just use the reference and not list any of the ten tests, but that discussion is outside the milieu of this writing. Nevertheless, the remaining tests listed in the Gemara are two tests with water, one with the golden calf and the tenth in the Paran Desert, referring to the spies. We see in general the incredible miracles Hashem performed, sustaining the Jewish people for forty years in the desert, particularly the manna that nourished us throughout the entire time.

Traditionally, Am Yisrael was punished and wandered in the desert for forty years due to the sin of the spies. It was decreed that this generation would not enter the Land of Israel. This generation, according to some, was the greatest generation of Jews. They lived on an extremely high spiritual level, living an almost complete spiritual life in a physical world. Of course it was the miracles which continuously sustained them, allowing them spiritual pursuits. True, Hashem created the scenario, but was this the life the Jews were intended to have forever? From Am Yisroel’s perspective, this incredible life should go on forever. Manna came down every day (double portion on Friday for Shabbos) for a lifetime. Who would have thought that it couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t continue forever? Life in the desert was unbelievably difficult, lacking all the modern conveniences. It was inconceivable that it should end. With all the miracles of protection, water, and daily food raining down from Shamayim, the Jews would be able to dwell and bask in Hashem’s Shechina forever! Despite this amazing life, that was not the world Hashem had in mind for His people. Rather we were destined to settle and build Eretz Yisrael, with the help of many miracles as well.

  1. only permanent entity in this world - which existed before the world was created and continues to lead us through thick and thin - is the Torah itself. True, ‘all good things must come to an end’, as the cliché goes, but it is the Torah that guides us through all the new creations, technologies, inventions, businesses, and, most precious of all, life. source never ends, because the Torah is the light through which God’s presence guides us, showing us how to live in this world. Hashem was, is and will be, so too His Torah was, is, and will always be. We should use the Torah, which is our endless, timeless roadmap, and apply it well to every area of life. Ki Heim Chayeinu, V’Orech Yameinu: the Torah is our life and the length of our days, not only the days of our personal lifetime but the lifetime of mankind. Torah is truly eternal; it will exist forever as the essence of life and wisdom to the world.

Parshas B'Haaloscha - With All Due Respect, Really?            18 Sivan 5778

06/01/18 11:09:25


Within the parameters of the Torah, whether it be Halacha/Jewish law or proper middos, character is viewed from two perspectives: the doer and the viewer. The classic example is Maris Ayin (how things appear to the eye) and being Dan Lekaf Zechus (judging another favorably). A man must take steps when doing something so that others should not think that he is committing an Aveira/sin. At the same time, someone witnessing tan apparent violation by a Jew must give the benefit of the doubt and conjure up reasons why the person had to do what looked like something which was forbidden. Another example I would like to share is a different situation which, in my humble opinion, underscores many of the issues we confront in the Jewish world today: the lack of Kavod/honor HaTorah.

Chazal in Pirkei Avos teach us that a man should run away from honor, yet there still exists the obligation for everyone else to shower that honor upon the person fleeing from it. There are three major figures in Jewish life where there is a requisite to give honor: a father, the King, and a Torah scholar. The Gemara in Kiddushin 32a states: “Rav Chisda is quoted as saying that whereas a father has the right to forego his honor, a Rav does not. Rav Yosef says that a Rav also has the right to forego his honor. Rav Yosef learned this from the Pasuk in Beshalach "va'Hashem Holech Lifneihem Yomam ... ". Rava initially objected to Rav Yosef's proof because, whereas the world belongs to Hashem, and He therefore has the right to forego His honor, the Torah that a Rav learns is not his but Hashem's. Therefore, he does not have the right to forego something that is not his in the first place. Later, the Beraisa, which clearly permits a Nasi to be Mochel (forego) his honor, forces us to amend Rav Ashi's initial statement, which now reads that even those who permit a Nasi to forego his honor, still forbid a king to do so. We learn this from the Pasuk "Som Tasim Alecha Melech", which teaches us that each person must designate the king as his ruler and fear him accordingly.

Even though we clearly see that the halacha permits a Talmid Chochom (Torah Scholar) to forego his honor, it nevertheless reduces or abolishes the obligation to honor. The Rabbi has a right to forego his honor, but his students do not! A great challenge to a teacher, Rebbi or even a pulpit Rabbi is maintaining the balance between being buddies with the guys and at the same time maintain the distance required to honor and respect both the person and the position. The greatest example of someone deserving of honor was Moshe Rabbeinu, yet even he was disrespected, as we read in this week.

In this week’s Parshas B’Haaloscha, the Torah states in Bamidbar 12:11 “VaYomer Aharon El Moshe Bi Adoni, Ahl Nah Sasheis Aleinu Chatas, Asher No’Ahlnu Va’Asher Chatanu”- “ Aharon said to Moshe, ‘Please, my lord, do not hold a grudge against us for acting foolishly and sinning.” Rabbeinu Chaim Ben Ittar, in his commentary Ohr Hachaim, explains this verse as follows. Behold we derive from Aharon’s words that Moshe was upset with him and his words, therefore deeming it necessary for Moshe to forgive. Apparently, the reason Aharon was so free with his speech is because he felt Moshe was a Talmid Chacham whose honor would be forgiven if Moshe chose to forego that honor, as is stated earlier in the Gemara Kiddushin 32b. In truth, Moshe Rabbeinu was not stringent with regard to his honor at all, which is why t the Torah records that Moshe was the humblest of all men, connecting the words of Aharon that Moshe should not hold a grudge against him because he sinned. If that’s the case, that Moshe as a great, humble man who did not hold anything against Aharon, then why was he and his sister Miriam punished? Didn’t Moshe relieve them of punishment?

Because the Torah/Hashem defends Moshe by declaring him humble, the intention is to reduce the severity of Aharon’s words. The first reason they were punished is because they should have viewed Moshe as the king, as mentioned in the Talmud Zevachim 102a and not just as a Torah scholar. The obvious difference is, unlike a Talmid Chochom, the king cannot forego his honor. In fact, this is why Hashem’s scolding of Aharon and Miriam at the time when He tells them “Madua Lo Yireisem L’Dabeir B’Avdi” - “Why are you not fearful to speak against My servants?” the Gemara in Shvuos 47b states: “To Hashem is the kingdom, and the servant of the King is a king, referring to Moshe. The second reason Aharon and Miriam were punished is because of God’s assertion that they suspected Moshe of sinning. Hashem not only didn’t rebuke Moshe for marrying his wife, He agreed to it! They were punished because they went against God’s approval regarding whom Moshe could marry. They were punished despite the fact Moshe let it go. Just because Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t stick up for his own honor does not lessen the other’s obligation to give that honor, no matter what.

A solid reason as to why Aharon and Miriam were punished is because they sinned against Hashem’s decision which agreed with Moshe’s choice for a wife. The proof that it had nothing to do with Moshe is that Moshe took the high road by davening for Miriam to heal her from the punishment of leprosy. Despite Moshe davening on his sister’s behalf, it did not spare her the Tzoraas, ultimately requiring all the people to wait the required seven days until her condition cleared up. If Aaron and Miriam’s punishment was caused by their treatment of Moshe, then Moshe would not have had to daven, he could just forgive them. Rather Moshe needed to daven on Miriam’s behalf because he was defending her from having sinned against God.

In the end we can determine that the punishment was assessed either any of the reasons given:sinning against Moshe, sinning against Hashem, or both. The Ohr HaChaim suggests that if Moshe had been demanding for his honor, then the punishment might have manifested itself differently, perhaps far harsher. Because of Moshe foregoing his honor, they were not spared from more extreme punishment. I am shocked when I hear the words “with all due respect” when spoken as a prelude to talking down to the Rabbi/Rebbi or teacher. This is a complete lack of respect at the highest degree. Many people feel it’s ok to say to the Rabbi ‘with all due respect’ and actually go on to disrespect him. We should realize when we dishonor a Talmid Chochom, we disgrace the Torah and Hashem. More importantly, those who truly honor those who are deserving of it will bring honor to the Torah and glory to the King of Kings.

Ah Gut Shabbos
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nasso - Priestly Blessings a Part of Daily Life        11 Sivan 5778

05/25/18 11:47:51


On a recent trip I experienced three different aspects of today’s society. The first is based upon a situation in which we could all find ourselves but might deal with differently than the choice chosen by someone on my flight. Is it better to be delayed an hour on the tarmac before takeoff or wait an hour on the tarmac for a gate to open upon arrival? The last one of the three observances I noticed came about after we landed. As we sat on the tarmac for an hour, passengers were upset, disturbed, and at one point going berserk. With a plane full of people, including children, a passenger began to curse, yelling obscenities at the situation. There was more filth that came out of her mouth than the restrooms had after the flight! Everyone around her was embarrassed for this woman’s behavior, whom, I’m convinced, speaks this way all the time. She simply didn’t care about proper etiquette, not only in public but as human being.

The second thing I discerned mid-flight was the snacks for purchase in flight, displayed to appeal to our need to chew something since the airlines no longer serve meals. The combination of fast food and finger foods has given rise to the same poor manners I was scolded for as a child by the adults who encouraged me to use a fork and knife while eating. Here was just one more indication of how society and our generation have done away with proper manners regarding eating.

The third and final blow came via a commercial for a new brand design of shirts. A relatively new company named UNTUCKit pitches their line as follows: ‘THE IDEAL SHIRT FOR THE UNTUCKED MAN’. These are casual men's shirts designed to be worn untucked because men’s shirts are always coming untucked anyway, so might as well create a shirt that is made to be that way. The company advertises “It's a straightforward look that's often done too little justice. So, we came up with a solution – a shirt that's designed to fall at the perfect length every time. A design fit for comfort, not convention”. Throughout my years in high school, my friends and I heard teachers, principals and administrators barking at us to tuck in our shirts. Could I ever possibly think to myself that I was born a generation early and I would have fit in so happily with the trends of our current times? I believe my answer is an emphatic “NO!”. Certain classifications of clothing are designed for certain occasions; the clothing worn should respect that situation, even today.

Call me old school, old fashioned, or just a plain old stick-in-the-mud, these are just three observations I picked up in the course of one plane ride that sums up the current generation. I consider these examples as an affront to values and behaviors of being civilized that are slowly peeling away basic standards for which the world stands. In general, people are less refined when it comes to their language (foul words), food (eat with their hands) and dress (clothing which demonstrates open disregard for self-pride in personal appearance and for appropriate public attire). My observation is not a religious one – rather, its about society at-large. Kal VaChomer, how much more so does this contemporary relaxation of basic standards speaks about the deterioration of the Torah’s values and standards! The Torah’s standards on issues concerning appropriate laws of propriety and behavior in society are sometimes clear and blatant and at other times hinted to us, such as in the Biras Kohanim - the Priestly Blessings.

In this week’s Parshas Nasso the Torah relates the Kohanim’s responsibility to bless Am Yisrael in Bamidbar 6:22-6:27. The Torah states “Y’Varechecha Hashem V’Yishmirecha”. “Ya’air Hashem Panav Eilecha VeeChuneka”. “Yisa Hashem Panav Eilecha, V’Yaseim L’Cha Shalom”. “May God bless you and keep watch over you. May God make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace. May God direct His providence toward you and grant you peace”. *Rav Shalom Mashash, in his sefer V’Cham HaShemesh, explains that the three verses of the Blessings of the Kohanim correspond to the three stages of life. The first word, Y’Varechecha, is to the infant child who is just beginning to use his limbs and extremities and is just beginning to be aware of those who surround and protect him. At that age they need to eat with their fingers and hands and be watched over. Once the young child has grown through that stage, he/she graduates to using utensils, to eating with a growing awareness of manners and respect for the food which is given. If this stage is not taught, the child will revert to the infant mind-set. The next phase is when the toddler can stand and begin to walk. This is consistent with Hashem’s presence, enlightening each of us to learn to perceive the fear and respect demanded for God. The ‘seeing’ here is the light between good and evil and the accompanying development of understanding and intelligence to all mankind. This leads to VeeChuneka - like education - which begins when a child can speak. The first words we teach a child are Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe, the sweet words of the Torah. A person who curses and blasphemes destroys the beauty of the tongue and insults mastery over language. Finally, in a person’s old age, the last stage Hashem directs His providence is toward you, granting you peace. Typically, as a person grows old, he becomes more tired and weak. An older person is dignified, and the manner of his or her dress should become a symbol of the essence of the life and values he/she has lived. We respect an older person as royalty, a person who represents a lifetime of ever-deepening wisdom. We stand up for them, physically exemplifying respect for these attributes. A king walks around in his finest clothing, wearing the royal robes and the crown befitting his position. As they say, “Clothing makes the man”; being untucked is not cool.

It is critical to receive the proper blessings and perspective in each area to be a well-rounded individual. The three areas that the Torah hints to us are how we eat, how we speak, and how we dress. With this in mind, eating with derech eretz, speaking properly, and dressing suitably we all help us to merit the blessings from God through the Kohanim in our days.

*Rabbi Shalom Mashash, was Jerusalem's chief Sephardi rabbi for 25 years Rabbi Mashash died in 2003 at the age of 90. He was born in Maknes, Morocco, and for many years served as the head of the rabbinical court in Casablanca. After retiring, he immigrated to Israel to serve as chief Jerusalem rabbi, like his cousin Rabbi Yosef Mashash, who served as Haifa's chief rabbi after retiring in Morocco and moving to Israel.

In 1978, then-Israeli Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef asked Rabbi Mashash to come to Jerusalem and become its chief Sephardic rabbinic authority. When he departed for Israel, Rabbi Mashash was escorted to the airport by Morocco's King Hassan himself, who requested that the Rabbi bless him one last time before his departure, and that it be his last act on Moroccan soil.

Parshas Bamidbar - Who's Behind the Wheel?        4 Sivan 5778

05/17/18 19:11:12


There are pros and cons to everything in life, even holidays. The Jewish calendar contains the High Holidays, the minor festivals and the three Pilgrimages known as the Shalosh Regalim. Two out of the three - Pesach and Sukkos - are longer holidays with multiple commandments, preparation and a set of intermediate days that break up the first and second half of the Yom Tov. The third holiday, Shavuos, is not accompanied by any one specific Mitzva, and being only one day (two days outside of Israel), there is no Chol HaMoed. Pesach and Sukkos can be stressful, expensive and a lot of hard work, while Shavuos is relatively inexpensive and not too difficult. Perhaps the reason we have a chol hamoed is to unwind and stretch out a bit from the Yom Tov experience, and therefore Shavuos does not require one.

Many families go on Chol HaMoed trips, and our family is no different. This year, like most years for our family, we usually end up doing some type of bike riding. By pure chance, my son and I shared a surrey bicycle with two steering wheels and two sets of pedals. It was obvious when one of us was not peddling, even though we were still moving as one peddled and the other did not. Steering, on the other hand, was a bit different, despite having two steering wheels only the ‘driver’s side’ controlled the direction. The second steering wheel (that’s the one I got) was a ‘dummy wheel’. It did absolutely nothing, no matter how many directions I turned it. The irony, though, was that as we were riding, my instincts as the guy in control of the wheel kicked in. Whenever I felt we veered too far to the right, I turned the wheel to the left, and as I felt we were veering off to the left, I quickly turned my wheel and steered to the right! Even though I conscientiously knew that my steering wheel did absolutely nothing, I still acted upon the situation thinking that I was in control.

We go through life thinking that we are in control of our lives. There is no question that our actions can influence certain outcomes, but ultimately, we are being carried by Hashem. We try to steer the wheel in a certain direction even though we are literally just spinning the wheel. It is true that “B’Derech She’Adam Rotzeh Leilech, Hashem Molichin Oso”: “In the manner or road a person wants to travel, Hashem will lead him on that path”. That path can be for the good or the bad. As we begin Sefer Bamidbar, the desert where the Torah was given coinciding with the Yom Tov of Shavuos is no coincidence. The Torah was carried in the Aron/Ark throughout the desert while the Jews traveled on their way to Eretz Canaan.

The tribe of Levi, Gershon, Kehas and Merari were responsible to carry the disassembled parts of the Mishkan in the desert. The divvying up of the carrying of the Mishkan is split between the end of this week’s Parsha and the beginning of Nasso. In Parshas Bamidbar we read about Gershon and Merari carrying the items they were charged to carry, while Kehas is instructed in Bamidbar 4:15: “V’Chila Aharon U’Banav L’Chasos Es Haodes, V’Es Kal Klei HaKodesh Binsoa HaMachaneh, V’Acharei Chein Yavou Bnei Kehas Laseis….”: “Aharon and his sons shall thus finish covering the sacred furniture and all the sanctuary utensils, so that the camp can begin its journey.” Only after the priests are finished shall the Kehothites come to carry these items. But, Chazal teach us that the Aron ‘carried itself’ because it contained the two sets of Luchos and the original Sefer Torah that Moshe wrote. This means that we don’t carry the Torah, the Torah carries us.

In Shmos 25:15 On the Pasuk "In the rings of the Aron the poles shall be, they shall not be moved", Chazal comment that anyone who removes them at any time, receives Malkos/Lashes. Both in connection with the Mizbei'ach ho'Olah and the Shulchan, the Torah confines the poles to remain in place to when the Vessels are being transported. It is only the Aron whose poles have to remain in place permanently.

The Meshech Chochmah ascribes this to the Medrash which states that the Aron represents the Crown of Torah, available to whoever wishes to wear it. The Talmid Chacham, he explains, requires constant support as Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: 'If there is no flour, there is no Torah'. That is why the Gemara in Pesachim 53b praises those who help Talmidei Chachamim by means of lending them money with which to do business. It explains why the Yerushalmi in Sotah 7:4 praises someone who, while he is unable to learn, teach, or to observe Mitzvos, regardless of his poor financial situation, still supports those who do learn Torah. All of this is hinted through the poles, which permanently support the Aron. The poles represent all the supporters of Torah whose physical, emotional and philosophical assistance is constantly required.

The Meshech Chochmah also discusses another explanation which he bases on the Rambam, who obligates the Kohanim to kindle the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash not only at night, but also by day as the Hatovas ha'Neiros, preparing the lights he maintains, incorporates lighting them. The Meshech Chochmah explains that since Chazal have pointed out that God, in whose House the Menorah is lit, does not require human lights by which to see, rather it is to emphasize that God commanded the Mitzvah of Hadlokas Neiros in the day, when lamps are unnecessary, indicating that the Mitzvah of kindling the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash is not to supply His needs. By the same token, now that Chazal have taught us that the Aron carried itself and did not need the B'nei Kehos to carry it, the Torah commanded that the poles should not be removed. This serves as an ongoing reminder that just as the poles are not required when the Aron is lying in its place in the Kodesh Ha'Kadashim, so too, they were not required when K'lal Yisrael was traveling in the Desert, since the Aron was perfectly capable of carrying itself.

Perhaps we can take the message from the Meshech Chochmah's second explanation and adapt it to elaborate on the first one. If the Aron was able to lift up the Kohanim who were seemingly carrying it and fly them over the River Yardein in the time of Yehoshua, then it was certainly able to carry itself. And so too with Torah. It is well able to look after itself and provide the Talmidei Chachamim who study it diligently, with all their needs. Then why does the Torah expect the wealthy to support them, as we explained? Because the truth of the matter is that it is not they who support the Torah, but the Torah which supports them! And the prohibition of removing the poles from the Aron is not because the Talmidei Chachamim need them constantly, but rather because they constantly need the Torah learning of the Talmidei Chachamim, not only for the spiritual inspiration and guidance that it affords them, but for their continued success in their financial endeavors. For who knows whether their material blessing is not conditional to their sharing it with Talmidei Chachamim, and that the moment they withdraw their support that blessing will come to an end?

The Yom Tov of Shavuos not only focuses on learning Torah, but also centers all of us on what Torah represents. We should be Zocheh and merit to have a Kabbolas HaTorah that is consistent with Torah values and show the respect of what Torah does for us in our lives.

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Gut Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Behar/Bechukosai - Mind Your Own Business, Not God's Business              26 Iyar 5778

05/11/18 09:11:53


I heard a story from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein YB”L, about the Chofetz Chaim. There was a man who owned a dry goods store in Radun. This individual made a decent to above average living for the time. One day, someone opened a store across the street from his store which caused him deep concern. (There was absolutely no issue of Hasagas Gevul – economic competition - in this case). Every day after opening his store, he would peek out of his window to see who was going into the competitor’s store. Were any of his regular patrons going to shop there? As the weeks went by, he felt that the support he had received from many of his long-time customers was slowly ebbing away. At one point he felt that he was making only half the profit he had been accustomed to earning before the other individual opened his store. As his paranoia grew, he stood outside his store watching, staring down anyone who entered the store across the street. He would even stop people walking past his own store, questioning them about what they were buying across the street and what were the prices compared to his own?

Finally,he decided to visit the saintly Chofetz Chaim and ask what he could possibly do in this situation because it was driving him crazy. Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan listened carefully and intently to the man’s issue. After a few minutes the Chofetz Chaim told this person what the problem was and what the solution is to be. The Chofetz Chaim said, “Before the other store opened, you made a living because you only had to mind one store or business. Now you are constantly worrying and watching over the other store as well. Since you are now watching and ‘working’ two businesses, your store is only producing half the amount!” The moral of the story is to mind your own business. The reflection of someone minding his own business and not looking elsewhere demonstrates faith and emunah in Hashem. Deep down, we know we are to receive exactly what we need to live on for the year. We waste so much time and effort trying to control the ‘other’ and neglect our basic work ethic. On top of the monetary loss, a person loses years of life due to self-inflicted anxiety. God can make both businesses not only survive but thrive. In order to develop the understanding and acceptance that Hashem controls everything, we must learn mussar to train our thinking.

The first parsha of this week is replete with Mitzvos that completely rely on having emumah and bitachon - faith and security in Hashem. The challenge to many of the following Mitzvos is that they go against nature and our normal way of thinking. Here are just a few Mitzvos which emphasize that we totally rely on HaShem so that we will be rewarded in greater ways not only in the next world but even immediately in this world: 1. Not to perform work on the land during Shemita; 2. Not to perform work on the vineyard during Shemita; 3. Not to harvest the products during Shemita as normally done in other years. 4. Not to harvest the grapes of one’s vineyard as normally done in other years, but rather to treat the vineyard like Hefker – as though it is ownerless; 5. Not to work the land during Yovel – the Jubilee; 6. Not to harvest the products during Yovel, as normally done in other years, but rather to treat like Hefker, as though it were ownerless; 7. Not to harvest the fruits of one’s orchard during Yovel as normally done in other years; 8. Not to cheat someone in business; 9. Not to sell a field in Eretz Yisrael forever; 10. Not to change the zones/allotments of the outskirts of the Levite cities; and 11. Not to lend money with interest. The common thread among all these Mitzvos is that a person feels he worked for it, he earned it, and he shouldn’t have to give it away. Towards the end of the section the Torah warns in 25:18: ‘Keep my decrees and safeguard My laws. If you keep these decrees, you will live in the land securely.’ But as Rashi clearly indicates because of transgressing the laws of the rest of year Israel is exiled. As it states later in Vayikra 26:34: ‘Then shall the land be paid her Sabbaths….and repay her Sabbaths.’ The seventy years of the Babylonian exile correspond to the seventy rest years which were not observed. But no matter how bad God’s children may act, our Father in Heaven figures out a way to rejoin His children and never abandon them, as can be realized from the following elucidation.

In the first of this week’s two parshios Behar/Bechukosai, the Torah states in Vayikra 25:29 “V’Ish Ki Yimkor Beis Moshav Ir Chomah, V’Haysa Geulaso Ad Tome Shnas Mimaro, Yamim T’hiyeh Geulaso”: “When a man sells a residential house in a walled city, he shall be able to redeem it until the end of one year after he has sold it. He has one full year to the day to redeem it”. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains this verse, referring to the ultimate redemption and not merely the redemption of an individual’s home. Through Remez/hint of the words the passuk is broken up into three parts. The word ‘V’Ish/the Man means God as He is referred in Az Yashir: ‘Hashem Ish Milchama. The next section of selling a house denotes the place where Hashem dwells speaks of the Beis HaMikdash. The Ir Chomah, a walled city, signifies Yerushalayim, which according to the Midrash was already walled when Yehoshua first conquered the land. Why or what is the significance of this interpretation? The reason is so that later in history it can be redeemed. As Chazal explained, God took out His fury on the wood and the stones of the Temple for if He took His fury out against the people, no Jew would have survived. Logically, if there are no Jews left then there is no need for a Beis HaMikdash or the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, this was the redemption of Am Yisrael - the Jewish people - and as a result the need for the rebuilding of the second Beis HaMikdash and resettling of Yerushalayim.

This all took place after the first Beis HaMikdash and for almost two thousand years we are still waiting for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. However, nineteen years after HKB”H returned the Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people, we had access to half the city of Jerusalem. Only nineteen years later the entire city was unified under Jewish sovereignty. Now, fifty-one years since the reunification of the city of Jerusalem it once again sparkling as the city of Gold. As we recognize Yom Yerushalayim, we should thank Hashem and pray for the last piece of the trio: to rebuild the Bayis Shlishi speedily in our day, Amen!

Parshas Emor - Alcohol, Drugs & Substance Abuse                                                18 Iyar 5778

05/03/18 12:09:09


Although I am not naïve, there are times I like to live in a bubble or at least in my own little world. Nobody wants to admit that they have problems or issues. Nevertheless, to survive troubles and difficulties one must remember the number one lesson in life: if something can happen to someone else, it can also happen to me. No one person, institution, or community is immune to the challenges of society. As insular as we try to make ourselves, or as we believe we may be, troubles find their ways to enter our lives.

I’ve said several times that any Rabbi or lay leader, no matter his position as Rosh Yeshiva of a Shul, school, Yeshiva, or community who claims that there is no issue or problem in the place(s) under his jurisdiction, is either in complete denial or is outright lying. This may not make me very popular because it sounds accusatory. Perhaps, to soften up my tone I can explain the feelings of others through my own sense with regard to the state of affairs of abuse today. Personally, I like to bury my head in the sand, making believe that there are no abuse issues in our community, but the reality is that I know better. We are not immune. Abuse does exist.

The purpose of the following discussion is not to discuss the legal and/or moral side to any substance that is abused. My purpose today is to give everyone a reality check, to make sure that we and our loved ones do not fall victim to this scourge of society. Although the Jewish community jokes around and downplays the use of alcohol consumption, alcoholism can and is affecting both the individual and family. It has allowed the pursuit of under-age children to consume alcohol. I want to be clear: we are not talking about a sip of wine during Kiddush; we are talking about under-age alcohol consumption encouraged by ready availability of wine and other alcoholic beverages. It is a known fact supported by a growing number of studies that people who drink alcohol to provide some type of time out or reprieve from society tend to fall victim to progressively worse things unless they get help. As an adjunct to this discussion, it’s important to note that the increasingly accepted use of recreational marijuana – now viewed as a gateway drug, was legalized in California this year. The opioid crisis is on the rise in the general population, and, by force of sheer existence, this crisis has crept into Jewish - including religious - circles as well. In general, as we confront a challenge in life, it’s not only the issue of admitting to the potential addiction or the specific illness that is the problem. The other major obstacle is finding the right source for help and, most importantly, knowing that you are not alone. Understanding that the person dealing with this problem is not the only person who has to come face-to-face with this challenge is a major key to seeking and accepting help in order to address the problem.

Lou Abrams, a social worker specializing in drug addiction in the Orthodox community, said the gratuitous presence of alcohol at Jewish celebrations — bar mitzvahs, “kiddush clubs,” Purim parties — and a general lack of adult supervision increases the risk of addiction, particularly for young people. “Alcohol is still a big gateway. Rarely does someone start taking opiates before first experimenting with alcohol or marijuana.” Still, for individuals, the problem is deeper than one too many drinks, or one too many joints. “Drug use is a response to a lot of pain,” Lou Abrams states. “If you leave religion, you are branded as an outcast and a rebel … you become a ‘bad person’ and so frequently will ask yourself, ‘Why shouldn’t I do drugs if people already assume there’s something wrong with me?’”

In 2015 a man stood up when everyone else was silent and began the taboo discussion of substance abuse in the ‘frum orthodox world’. Rabbi Tzvi Gluck started an organization called “Amudim” which means pillars. The following is a synopsis of the Amudim mission. “When people are faced with crisis, their world begins to crumble. In addition to managing the crisis itself, otherwise manageable daily responsibilities become overwhelming. This additional pressure compounds the crisis, creating a crushing, seemingly insurmountable physical, psychological, and emotional strain. Our holistic approach to crisis-- providing the skills and tools necessary to effectively manage both the crisis and everyday life-- is necessary for clients to reach optimal positive outcomes.” Another major goal is to bring about an awareness in two areas: that someone fighting substance abuse, whether the victim or the family, should know that help is available 24/7. The second is to teach and create an awareness of prevention, thereby averting further decline to more difficult and more dangerous abuses.

An obvious question is asked: ‘If wine is so dangerous, why do we have it for kiddush and other holy ceremonies?” A hint to this is NOT found in this week’s parshas Emor. The beginning of the parsha outlines the laws of the Kohein Gadol and an ordinary Kohein. The laws of marriage, defilement due to a family member’s death, and the Temple service are not permitted to be performed by a Kohein with a blemish. The Mitzva for a Kohein not to drink wine or an intoxicating beverage is found earlier in Parshas Shmini. Drinking wine in and of itself is not prohibited for a Kohein; the prohibition is that he is not allowed to perform the Avoda after drinking wine, or at least until its effect dissipates. We are concerned that drinking wine will interfere with his or her Avodas Hashem. Alternatively, when used exclusively for a Mitzva performance, it will not get out of hand. Social drinking not for a Mitzva will be the cause of getting used to drink when not necessary.

Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei warns the human being of the destructive force of wine and alcohol. As it states in 23:29 “L’Mi Oy, L’Mi Avoy, L’Mi Midyanim, L’Mi Siach, L’Mi Petza’eem Chinam, L’Mi Chachlilus Einayim”. “Who cries, Alas, Who cries Woe? Who is contentious? Who Prattles? Who is wounded for naught? Whose eyes are red? 23:30 “LaM’Acharim Al HaYayin, LaBaim Lachkor Mimsach”. “Those who linger over wine; those who come to inquire over mixed drinks.” Rabbeinu Bachya makes clear that Shlomo HaMelech is not limiting his warning only to wine, but rather to any desire a person chases. Such need – addiction - will ruin his life in this world and the next. Unfortunately, there are many easily accessible “gateways” in our society which can lead to personal misery and ruin. Prescription drugs and marijuana are common viaducts to serious additions, however it’s important to note that results of many current studies indicate that most teenage addictions get started with drinking. Rabbeinu Bachya emphasizes that wine/alcohol is the major culprit that leads to other more aggressive addictions. Wine and alcohol is the gateway to all vices. It is what causes the body and the soul to be lost.

As King Solomon aptly writes in Koheles 2:25: “For who should eat and who should make haste except me? That too, is futility and a vexation of the spirit.”

This article is not intended to alarm anyone, but rather to create the awareness that in every Jewish community there are individuals and families battling different kinds of abuse. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and think our community is immune. We are not. It is an opportunity for anyone who feels alone and isolated, thinking they are the only ones suffering from such pain, believing there is no help available, no one to whom they can reliably turn to learn that this is not true. Rabbis are ready and available to listen, to help, and to guide people in need, including their families, to resources that are available today. Together we can fight the scourge of addiction. But first we must recognize that we are not immune. Help is available. As Chazal teach, “Whoever saves one soul, it’s as if he saved an entire world.” Let’s get to work!

Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim - Stopping the Bloodshed                                 12 Iyar 5778

04/27/18 08:29:08


Research shows that in 2017 the number of smart phones in the world was 2.5 billion; in the United States there were approximately 280 million smart phones - roughly four out of five Americans are using a smart phone. I know two people who only use a conventional cell phone, known as a “dumb” phone. There many adjectives we use to describe people in general. Judaism is no exception. Often, we refer to a person as a ‘tzadik,’ a righteous person, but rarely do we call an individual ‘Kadosh’ - a holy one. The two people I know along with others who choose not to have a smart phone are not only Tzadikim; they are Kedoshim. Chazal explain that the way a person becomes a ‘kadosh’ is by sanctifying himself with items that are permissible: ‘Kadesh Atzmecha B’Mutar Lach’. Jewish life recognizes and uses technology to help us grow in Torah, but, unfortunately, many advances in medicine and science could be used be used for good or bad.

We think and are taught that technology helps us to be more efficient and helpful. While it is true that the cell phone has made life more convenient, it has not necessarily made us into more efficient people. When the vacuum cleaner came on the scene, people no longer had to take their rugs outside, hang them over a fence and smack the dust off with a pole for fifteen minutes every other week. Fast forward…now we only need to vacuum for ten minutes…every day! With any invention, we need to not only look at the benefits;, we also must consider the detriments. I am not implying that we only consider using something if it benefits us and has zero negatives. There will always be a negative side to everything, but we must control the ill consequences that can harm us and society.

Putting aside the obvious dangers of the Internet, there looms the destruction of society through social media. A few months ago, all who attended “screenagers” were educated on the hazards of the smart phone and how vulnerable we ALL are. However, I would like to focus in on one aspect of our world of instant communication: the usage of Whatspp groups and similar platforms of group chatting and sharing. Throughout the Jewish world, last Shabbos was dedicated to Shmiras HaLashon - watching our speech. Now I know what most of you reading this are thinking: “The Rabbi is going to give us mussar. He’s going to talk about how bad Loshon Hora is and will discuss the punishments that result from speaking Loshon Hora”. I hate to say it but (I include myself in this rebuke) I don’t think just saying we must guard our tongues works anymore. We are so immersed in gossiping, it is totally out of control. We can place partial blame on the misuse of technology. We tend to be embarrassed when chatting with a group to speak up and say to a friend or a group that the ongoing conversation harbors on Lashon Hora. The halacha ‘once was’ if a group of friends was speaking lashon hora, someone in the group would try to change the subject. z If that didn’t work, they would excuse themselves. Someone (in a different city) told me he was part of a WhatsApp group and found the content to be questionable. The person found it difficult to ‘leave the group’ which is an option because the other members would then comment on how that person thinks he is better than we are. The truth is that that person is better, but the social pressure is so great that it does not allow for people to do the right thing even though everyone else knows it is true.

The one successful approach Chazal suggest in combating any prohibition is not saying ‘it is forbidden’ but rather to learn about the Mitzva. One of the obstructions that exists in resisting evil speech is the lack of knowledge of the basic Mitzva. Let us all begin right here and now.

Last week’s parsha referenced Loshan Hora, but this week we clearly read about the Mitzva of Rechilus - literally a peddler - but figuratively defined as gossiping and spreading inappropriate information. In the second of this week’s double parshios, the Torah states in Vaikra 19:16 “Lo Seilech Rachil B’Amecha, Lo Sa’Amod Al Daam Rei’Echa, Ani Hashem”: “Do not go around as a gossiper among your people. Do not stand still over your neighbor’s blood (when your neighbor’s life is in danger). I am God”. It is interesting to note that this passuk and the verses that precede and follow it contain two parts. In some cases, we see a direct correlation or continuation from the first to the second half. Our verse has a strong connection as well. I will share a few commentaries that make the link.

The holy Zohar indicates that whoever violates the first part of being a gossiper has automatically violated the second one of killing someone. The Chizkuni, on the other hand, says the first causes the second to occur. A person creates an enemy through his gossiping against his friend, and that, in turn, causes the other person to rise up and kill him. Yehuda Ben Itar explains that Rechilus, which is a form of Lashon Hora, is as harsh as a sword that can kill. The Ba’al HaTurim says the word Rachil in Hebrew is spelled ‘full’ meaning with a letter ‘yud’ which is extra. The extra ytside of Am Yisraelud (which has a value of ten) represents the Ten Commandments. If someone violates this Mitzva of being a gossiper, it is as if he violated the ten major commandments. The Shelah HaKadosh teaches that the Ten Commandments contain all six hundred thirteen Mitzvos. Therefore, by speaking Rechilus a person violates the entire Torah, thereby deserving others to stand by watching his blood and letting it be.

The Netzi”v flips the verse completely upside down. True, one is forbidden to speak and be a gossiper for something that is evil and creates bad will. On the other hand, if a person has something good and positive to say about someone, do not stand idly by and let his blood be shed. Rather, stand up and say something positive in order to save him from having his blood spilled. The Yerushalmi in Peah 1:5 rules that it is permissible to speak Lashon Hora against someone who quarrels with everyone and creates havoc for the Jewish people. This is learned out from the words “Do not gossip among your people,” but someone who acts outside of Am Yisrael does not deserve to be protected.

  1. us all take upon ourselves to learn about some of the laws of gossiping and realize that nothing good comes from it. If we all try a little, it will make a big difference in each of our lives and in the lives of others.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


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

04/20/18 12:01:19


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

04/13/18 10:44:52


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

03/29/18 12:04:04


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

03/22/18 14:18:57


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.  

Thu, June 20 2019 17 Sivan 5779