Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas Yisro - Maintaining A Jewish Home        19 Shvat 5782

01/21/2022 09:29:39 AM

Jan21

It does not take much for Jews to come up with reasons to celebrate an event and use it as an excuse to eat! The rabbis explained there is no true joy unless one has wine and meat. Of course, wine and meat have been highlighted for their spiritual purpose, going back to the time of the Beis HaMikadash, the Holy Temple:  wine was used as libations for the altar and meat was from the sacrificial offerings. So, it is only today, lacking the Temple, that we substitute all other foods for celebratory reasons, but even during the time the Beis HaMikdash was standing we looked forward to eating  as a means of celebrating with simcha and joy.

One of the reasons Yitzchok Avinu asked Eisav to bring him food was not because he was hungry. Think about it,  his wife, Rivka, overheard the entire conversation and direction that Yitzchok had with Eisav. If Yitzchok was hungry, he easily could have asked Rivka for lunch! Apparently, it was  by design that Eisav prepared the food and Yitzchok became full and satisfied from that specific food. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that a person is able to offer a more complete blessing, and, more importantly, one that will come to fruition when accompanied by a special meal. So clearly, goodness and blessing can be brought to a higher, more complete level through a full stomach. Hence, food and drink (in proper measure) are an integral part of our culture. You may correctly comment at this point that food is a component of every culture. Here, too, I am not speaking of the culture in terms of cuisine, but more specifically in the spiritual sense. The purpose of a Jew is to use food to bring us closer to God, the same way as was  in the Beis HaMikdash.  

On Simchas Torah, the last person called to conclude the Torah is called “Chosson Torah” while the person honored with the first reading of Bereishis is called “Chosson Bereishis”. Both aliyos occur with great fanfare and the spreading out of a talis over the bimah, creating a Chuppah a wedding canopy. Just as a wedding between a bride and groom, celebrated with a festive meal, so too a Chosson - or Chattan  - the groom of the Torah also is accompanied by a reception to celebrate the “wedding” the groom has with the Torah, his “bride”. The minhag Yisrael, the custom in the Jewish world, is for these two individuals to provide a kiddush either on the day of Simchas Torah or another Shabbos during the year.

In life there are always two ways of looking at a situation or an event. A few examples: the celebrating of an anniversary could be viewed that another year of marriage has passed, or it is the re-creation of a new year of married life on the horizon. Likewise, when we finish a Mesechta/tractate of the Talmud, we not only finish but immediately begin the next Mesechta in the cycle. On a personal level, Parshas Yisro is my anniversary for writing this weekly message. It is a celebration of completing twelve years and at the same time starting the thirteenth cycle. Shavuos and Simchas Torah are recognized for the day the Torah was given and the completion of the Torah reading cycle. Nevertheless, there is more to the celebrating of an event with just food. Rather, there is a bond, a deep connection that we are focusing on,  creating a joy among all of the celebrants. Parshas Yisro highlights the story of the giving of the Torah and the symbolism of the marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people.

In this week’s Parshas Yisro the Torah states in Shmos 19:8 "ויענו כל העם יחדו ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה, וישב משה את דברי העם אל ה'"  “All the people answered as one and said, All that God has spoken, we will do”. The Jewish people answering was the commitment to the marriage of the Jewish people to the Torah and Hashem. The key element in this holy union was the acceptance and commitment to follow the Torah and observe the Mitzvos. If the Torah is observed, then Hashem’s presence is present in the home. The guideline of the Torah is what creates a smooth and meaningful ride through life. When I process the word ‘smooth’ relating to life, I understand it to mean there will be a tranquil home, a home filled with peace -  shalom bayis. Peace in the home, however, is not limited to marital harmony; it extends to every aspect of family dynamics. Having a house imbued with Shalom Bayis means there is tranquility between parents and children, among siblings, and between the parents themselves. Furthermore, Shalom Bayis exists when other people, such as relatives, guests and even strangers come into your house. How do we react and behave? If a Torah environment is primary, then Shalom Bayis will permeate all who are in the house. 

There is an old saying, “happy wife happy life”. This saying should be expanded to include all aspects of our lives.  A happy person will have a happy life. Mental health professionals have found people who lead tranquil, calm lives and have a peaceful home will live a happy, more productive, fulfilling life. Shalom Bayis does not necessarily mean there are not differing opinions and subtle arguments. Rather, Shalom is something to work on, something to be achieved. The Talmud is replete with disagreements, arguments among the great sages of their time. With this said, never do we find a hatred or animosity.  To the contrary, there was always love and respect shown among them.

Parshas Yisro is the crossroads, the anniversary of the story of the great wedding that took place between the Jewish people and the Torah. There are times when the house has its challenges. There are times in all our lives when we may need to seek out help in order to strengthen our shalom bayis.  At any time, I am always available to help couples with even very small issues; correcting, working out solutions to small issues avoids their growing into big ones.  An anniversary is an opportunity to look back at what we’ve gone through and to look forward to what we need to accomplish. The key element is to know how we bring that ‘Shalom’ back into the fray. An anniversary, birthday or any day of reckoning looks back to the beginning.

For Shalom Bayis, we look back to the day we walked into that bayis/home. There was marital bliss and happiness. Think back to the principles and values that each spouse brought into their home. We go back to the blessing that was showered upon the young couple - that they should merit to build a Bayis NeEman B’Yisrael, a true home among the Jewish people. Just as the groom is about to slide the ring onto the finger of his bride he declares, הרי את מקודשת לי בטבעת זו, כדת משה וישראל"  “Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moshe and Israel”. It is by the laws of the Torah upon which this marriage will be based. God’s presence and Shechina rested over the mountain at the time of the giving of the Torah. It is therefore a requirement for Shalom Bayis to exist with Hashem’s Shechina resting over the home as a result of the Torah being part and parcel of that home. May we all merit Shalom Bayis in our personal homes and may Klal Yisrael merit Shalom in the House of Israel through our dedication and learning of Hashem’s Torah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas B'Shalach - Getting High on Manna

01/14/2022 11:14:55 AM

Jan14

This week’s Torah message is sponsored by Ronnie and Susan Masliansky of Skokie Illinois in memory of Esther Rochel Bas Nachum z”l (Esther Rose Bogopulsky) and Aharon Ben Avraham Yitzchok z”l (Rev. Aaron Masliansky) on their Yahrzeits this past week.

We all remember learning about the manna that fell from heaven when the Jewish people left Egypt. Perhaps one of the top ten facts kids remember from their Chumash or Parsha class was that manna could taste like anything your taste buds desired. An age-old question was what Bracha/blessing was recited over the Manna? I will be discussing this question at my Shabbos afternoon class this week. Imagine the feeling one would have after eating the Manna: satisfaction, satiation, and total contentment.. The Rabbis explained that Yitzchok asked Eisav for food before he blessed him. Yitzchok understood that a Bracha  given would be more effective on a full stomach. Yitzchok was on a spiritual high and was able to give a Bracha/blessing to him. Some people think that I can be a more effective Oved HaShem - servant of God - when in a state of euphoria. So here is the question of our modern age: Why is it a problem to take a forbidden substance if such substance would help me to serve Hashem better?   

The following message is sensitive and challenging, particularly within the culture and stresses of modern American society.  Every challenge confronting American society eventually filters down to the Jewish community, and the Orthodox circles are not immune to these addictions. The medical use of cannabis is legal with a doctor's recommendation in 36 states, four out of five permanently inhabited U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Twelve other states have laws that limit THC content, while  the recreational use of cannabis is legalized in 18 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Another 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use.

It is now an acceptable question from the “frum” community to ask, ”Why can’t I use marijuana now that it is legal?” There are ethical questions asked of Kashrus agencies to give certification to “edibles” and brownies that have a component of cannabis. On the one hand it is a good sign that some are at least asking the questions while others don’t even bother to ask, choosing to just use it. One should not think that rabbis and Jewish organizations are not hanging up posters on the issue of substance abuse and alcohol because they do not know about it or are in denial. To the contrary, Rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva, principals, and other leading figures who say they do not have any substance abuse issues in their community are either living out of touch or are simply lying. The Orthodox Union and Agudas Yisrael are tackling these issues, unfortunately on a daily basis. This, along with other sensitive topics can be embarrassing to discuss with someone else, especially with their rabbis or close friends. Nevertheless, it is not only important, it is critical to open up, to have a conversation  (albeit an uncomfortable one in the beginning but a very beneficial one in the future) with a rabbi. Unfortunately, most people today do not have a rebbi or a personal teacher in whom they can confide and ask important everyday Halachik and Hashkafik questions. When a person seeks out a rabbinic figure, he/she  is  receiving truthful guidance  connecting to Hashem. This is clearly seen in the Torah.   

In this week’s Parshas B’Shalach the Torah in Shmos 14:31 describes the song of Moshe Rabbeinu, words that were later incorporated into the davening. Every single day during Shacharis,the morning prayer, we recite a section from the Torah known as “Az Yashir”. A few sentences prior to Az Yashir, we mention how the people believed in Hashem and Moshe, His servant. "ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו"   The Mechilta in Parshas B’Shalach explains that ’whoever believes in the shepherd of Israel is as if they believe in the creator of the world’. Similarly, another verse states "וידבר העם באלוקים ובמשה"  “the people spoke with God and with Moshe”. If the Jewish people were able to speak with Hashem, how much more so were they able to speak to Moshe. The Mechilta repeats the reasoning that speaking to the shepherd of Israel is equivalent to speaking to One who said, “let the world be”. Therefore, we need to seek rabbinic guidance on all levels, especially the difficult and critical ones. The basic question is: is it permitted to smoke marijuana?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein OB”M discusses this in his responsa Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35. The following is a loose translation of what he writes there:

“It is obviously forbidden to smoke marijuana, as this violates many basic laws of our Torah. First of all, it physically injures the person. Even if there are people who are not physically affected by this, it mentally affects the person as it destroys his mind and prevents him from understanding things properly. This is a terrible thing, since not only can the individual not properly study Torah, he also cannot pray and properly perform Mitzvos (commandments), since doing them mindlessly is considered as if they were not done at all. Furthermore, he is creating within himself a very strong desire (addiction?), which is much stronger than the desire to eat, etc. which are necessary for a person to live. There are many who cannot control or overcome this desire. This is a very grave prohibition, as we find that a Ben Sorer U’Moreh [is killed] (See Deut. 21:18) for creating within himself a very strong desire, even though it is to eat Kosher food! How much more so it is forbidden for a person to bring upon himself an even greater desire, especially for something that a person does not need at all…”

It's important to note that medical marijuana is a completely different question where there is great concern to alleviate pain and suffering. With regard to medical marijuana, there is  greater leniency for a specific person and in a specific situation. Every question must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Unfortunately, obtaining marijuana is almost as easy as it was for the Jews to get Manna in the desert. Billboards and signs have been placed all over the city advertising cannabis. I do not know anyone who uses marijuana in an illegal fashion in our community.  While saying this, I also do not want to be so naïve to think that the problem does not exist within the San Diego Jewish community.  I do want the members of the community to know that I am always here to listen to the silent cries that are often smothered through some form of substance abuse, taking a toll on the user and causing detrimental effects for the family. Rabbis are here to guide people to get help physically, emotionally, spiritually for all of the challenges of life.  This certainly applies to substance abuse.  Every Jew is precious, and we love everyone. Dependency on drugs ultimately leads to harming oneself and one’s family. We hope and pray Hashem protect those who are in danger and give them the wherewithal to serve Hashem with all-natural strength.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bo - Checking the Unchecked Behavior    5 Shvat 5782

01/06/2022 09:54:09 PM

Jan6

Leadership is, at times, judged for taking a stance on an issue, and, on occasion, for not taking a stance on an issue. Perhaps ‘taking a stance ‘is not the best choice of language, especially regarding the topic of discussion below.  Perhaps a better choice of words would be to comment or choose not to comment on issues which swirl around the world, and, more specifically, swirl around the Jewish world at large. I share this message with some trepidation. Too often a writer or speaker leaves a point or two out of the discussion, leading the reader or listener opportunity to fill that void,  resulting in criticism for the omission.   A writer must be very careful, as, unlike the spoken word, the written word remains  for eternity. Even today, when so many things are recorded, one must be extremely careful not only to cross the T’s and dot the I’s, but to also ensure that no essential details are omitted while making the complex effort to omit details which can later be misconstrued or taken out of context.

With this introduction, I arrived at another dilemma. We, here in San Diego, are blessed and cursed by living ’out of town’. Living in an ’out of town’ community causes challenges of living a life without all the Jewish amenities that are typically readily available in a larger Jewish, and particularly religious, population.  On the other hand, we ‘out-of-towners’ are blessed to be insulated from some of the major distractions and challenges facing larger “frum” Jewish communities. With this said, today’s world is starkly different, not only in the Jewish world but for everyone, thanks to the Internet. This is not a referendum on the Internet (otherwise how would you be reading this on-line); I am simply stating a fact that the world has become much smaller. We can now tap into the shmuess/chatter and news of every Jewish community throughout the world with a few strokes of a keyboard.

I do not know how many of my readers follow news that comes out of Chareidi, Chaisidic or Litvish circles, but it is irrelevant for two reasons: 1) to quote Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, “Predators exist everywhere since time immemorial. There are Haredi predators, Modern Orthodox, Dati Leumi, Conservative, Reform, unaffiliated Jews, atheist, Catholic and Muslim predators. There are predators who are priests, rabbis and imams. There are predators who are journalists and politicians, doctors and lawyers, teachers and professors, police officers, plumbers and piano teachers, producers and directors, actors and actresses, parents, and stepparents. Nevertheless, we should be accurate and circumspect in judging any group for the sins of an individual.” 2) Rabbi Pruzansky continues, “Those who continue to deny that problems of abuse exist in their community are enablers of the worst kind. Therefore, I will make known to anyone who doesn’t even know what I am talking about to hear a message of going forward. I am referring to the recent scandals, disgraces, humiliations, and shameful stories that have come out of the religious Jewish world. Many are familiar with the term Chillul HaShem,’ loosely translated as a desecration of God’s name. I would like to outline two or three points that we can take away from current events. Before I begin to address Chillul Hashem, the most severe sin a Jew can commit, let us halachically define it and not misuse it. Too often a term of such magnitude is thrown around and most typically ill placed. I will try in a few short sentences to give a general overview;  I am sure there is more to be said. My description is not all-encompassing.   

The Rambam enumerates three types of Chillul Hashem. The first is when someone refuses to give up his life when called for. The second is when one commits a sin, not because he’s driven by his urges but pretty much out of spite. The third category is what we typically mean when we talk about Chillul Hashem: when someone who should know better acts in a fashion that is perceived to be beneath him. The Gemara Yoma 86a discusses what would constitute a Chillul Hashem. Rav said a Chillul Hashem would be applicable if a person failed to  pay his butcher on time. Now that is not such a grievous thing, but coming from Rav, it reflects badly on Torah scholars. Each of us, at our own level, is responsible to strive to act upward and not stoop down. Tosfos in Gemara Bava Kamma 113b rules that a Chillul Hashem does apply to non-Jews whenever they are expecting better behavior from the Jew. If it is a common traffic violation that most people may transgress and is understood [even though not forgiven] by the authorities,  Jews are not looked upon more harshly than others. Such case may not be defined as Chillul Hashem. In the case of a serious infringement, however, where most people are expected to obey, and the Jew is looked upon as one who should present higher standards of behavior, it may fall into the definition of Chillul Hashem.

These cited references are light in comparison to scandals that place the Jewish people clearly in a bad light by committing fraud and white-collar crimes where it is “only money”. These “only money” crimes destroy the reputation of Jews within the community where such offenses occurred as well as to the Jewish name at large. But  cases of sexual abuse, fraud, manipulation, and so forth, destroy the essence of Jewish society by losing trust in the good people and mentally and sometimes physically come to kill the victim.

We find in Gemara Yoma 86a quoted earlier that complete Teshuva/repentance for the classic Chillul Hashem is not always a simple task, and in extreme cases it is almost unattainable. In lighter cases of Chillul Hashem, if at all, I give you the words of Rabenu Yona in his Sha'arei Tshuvah 4:5:one should increase Kiddush Hashem  - the sanctification of  Hashem's name - by acting with meticulous care in that regard, in order to repair the damage that had been created. The sin of committing a chillul Hashem in an extreme case, such as in sexual abuse, is so serious that the Gemara tells us that neither teshuvah (repentance), Yom Kippur, nor suffering can fully affect atonement for such a person. A person cannot be fully cleansed of the taint of making a Chillul Hashem until he has died - and not by suicide.

I have read, listened to countless talks by leading Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshiva, and mental health professionals about the recent events and the conclusion is the same. The works of a person who commits these crimes against the innocent and vulnerable must be thrown, out despite the appearance of the mis-perceived value of the offender. We must understand this person (who I don’t want to even mention his name) probably lost any portion in the world to come. Our feelings of support must be loud and clear to the victims of sexual abuse.  We must assert that we believe the victims’ claims (when substantiated through proper channels) and are here to support these people emotionally, physically and financially, assuring that they  receive the necessary tools to rehabilitate.

Going forward, we, as parents, grandparents, and teachers need to educate our children from an early age about the dos and don’ts that are expected and accepted by adults. This is not limited to strangers, it applies equally to all relatives who are near their prey within the natural family setting. To again quote Rabbi Pruzansky, “It is parents who must educate their children regarding acceptable boundaries and the impropriety of physical contact by others. Parents must impress on their children that no adult is ever allowed to tell them to keep a secret from their parents, and that children should never be embarrassed or afraid to share with their parents anything that has happened to them. Children – boys and girls – should be informed of the laws of yichud and try to not to be alone behind closed doors with any person, even a respected authority figure. And children should cry out immediately, run from their assailant, and immediately inform their parents.”

Let us begin to correct and protect the innocent and vulnerable and root out the evil conduct within our society. It is up to us all to live in God’s image by creating more Kiddush HaShem and not, Chas V’Shalom, the opposite.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEira - New Year's Resolutions        26 Teves 5782

12/30/2021 12:28:04 PM

Dec30

Parshas VaEra – New Year’s Resolutions

Are New Year’s resolutions an acceptable practice in Judaism? Do Jews, or for that matter does Halacha recognize this sort of behavior? One can argue both sides: on the one hand it helps us be better people while on the other hand doing so could come from a forbidden, ritual practice. History does not have a definitive answer on this matter, but one of the earliest known practices of making such resolutions dates back about 4000 years ago to the ancient Babylonians who are believed to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began in mid-March, not January, timed to coincide with spring crop planting. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians either crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of today’s customary New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to experience.

Based upon that description, we Jews would forbid New Year’s resolutions since the sources for doing so are idolatry. On the other hand, this entire practice of the Babylonians seems extremely familiar to something we do every year on the first of Tishrei, our Rosh Hashana or New Year. While we repent, we take on clear resolutions not to do certain things we were not supposed to do or… the opposite – to commit to doing things that we were supposed to do.

How effective are resolutions? Well, for the secular world, statistics have shown when it comes to resolutions, it is common knowledge that they are not often realized.  Many give up on their resolutions early into the new year; resolutions are typically viewed more as a tradition and less of something to actually commit to accomplishing. So, let’s take a deeper look: how early do people typically give up on their resolutions, if they do , in actuality, give up at all? 22% of resolutions fail after the first week, 40% of resolutions fail after a month, 50% of resolutions will fail after the first three months, while 60% of resolutions fail after six months. We hope that when it comes to Jewish resolutions impacting how our year is going to be the statistics are at least somewhat higher. But our “resolutions” are not always about Mitzvos and Aveiros; rather our typical resolutions focus on other forms of commitments - to be “better” at something we are already doing i.e., davening, watching our speech, concentrating on blessings, doing more chessed etc.  One common example is creating a road or a pathway to grow closer to God. The main key path to getting closer to Hashem is through the study of Torah. There has been a boom in the learning of Torah in the Jewish world. One outstanding example is Daf Yomi.

This Shabbos, January 1,2022 on the secular calendar, will be exactly two years since the Siyum HaShas (the completion of a 7 ½ year cycle of completing the Talmud’s 2711 pages by learning one folio a day). On that day, many of the attendees at the various venues of the Siyum, whether it was at MetLife stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, or at your local Shul, took on a commitment to join the incredible mass movement of learning the daf. Some people are still going strong while others have petered out along the way. Nevertheless, all have learned more than they would have if they had not started at all. It was a resolution of sorts to start on something new with a goal that they never thought they would ever have been able to do.

A resolution , a determination to make a firm decision to do or not to do something, usually is inspired by an event or the timing of something special or unique in a person’s life. The day of the completion of the last Daf Yomi cycle, was, without a doubt, one of those moments. To the day, now almost two full years into the new 7 ½ year Daf Yomi cycle, thousands are still going strong, their commitment and growth of daily learning of the Talmud changing their lives and the lives of their families and loved ones around them. Unfortunately, not everyone was successful in continuing. But I would like to share another golden opportunity that is within everyone’s reach, and I mean everyone. I started it myself and here is how I got into it.

Last Sunday, December 26th I texted someone out of the blue and said “Shalom Uvracha. How are you?”. He replied, “Shalom. BH I’m well. How are you? Are we starting Mishna tomorrow?” To be honest I had no idea what he was talking about, but I played along with him as if I knew. So I said “yes, I just wanted to know which Mesechta/tractate”. He said: “Starts with Brachos?” I said: “Yes, but you probably did Brachos already”. He said: “Ohhh. I was saying the universal ‘we’ in regard to Mishna Yomi”. I confirmed we’d start that day and asked for a time and then asked, “What Mishna is the world Mishna Yomi up to? Are you doing that?” He replied, “Apparently it started yesterday”. So, being only one day behind, we started learning via phone. I had heard of Mishna Yomi, but I never knew the breakdown and how the cycle runs. I researched and found out that Mishna Yomi is a daily Torah-study program in which participants learn two Mishnayos a day and complete all six orders of the Mishna in approximately five years and nine months.

Learning Mishnayos is not just something for kids. Years ago, my Rebbi, Rabbi Reznick told us that before one learns a tractate of Gemara, he needs to learn the Mishnayos of that tractate. Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz, in a beautiful introduction to Mishnayos Yomi, explained that the Mishna is the foundation of Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral Law, and is comparable to the Torah She’Bichsav, the written Torah. The Torah was written down by Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the most humble of all men. So too, the Mishna was written down by Reb Yehuda HaNasi, who was also the humblest of his generation. As an example, he would always quote an opposing view first before giving his own opinion. The same Mishanayos are learned by young and old each and every day. The beauty of this program is that it only requires about ten minutes a day. People could learn with a partner, parent and child, or even participate in a contest motivating two people against each other. It just started last Shabbos, so it is easy to catch up this past week and join the daily Mishna learning, joining the world-wide initiative. This would be a wonderful New Year’s resolution - even on a January 1st.

On a concluding note, there are many situations of tragedy and horror that occur within the Jewish world. We cannot know the answers; we cannot give reasons or explain what or why. One of the best therapies to deal with such trying, difficult events, past and especially current, is to occupy our minds in the depths of Torah. Let us use this opportunity to learn any daily study of Torah, Shmiras HaLashon, Laws of Shabbos, etc. as a therapeutic exercise in dealing with and handling life’s challenges.

Parshas Shmos - What Was he and He Thinking?                20 Teves 5782

12/23/2021 06:34:12 PM

Dec23

The winter, which is the rainy season in San Diego, brings more than flooding and traffic collisions on the ground; it also brings added pressure to a two-hundred-pound test fishing line, otherwise known as the eruv. As some of the local readership knows, (and now everyone will know) the eruv was non-operational last Shabbos due to the fact the line was broken and unable to be repaired before Shabbos.  To my recollection, this was only the second time in the seventeen-year history of the eruv being up that it was not Kasher for Shabbos use. There have been several close calls when we felt the odds of it getting fixed before Shabbos were small and advised the community to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I could write a book on the different situations we faced and the hurdles that needed to be overcome to ensure the eruv being up for the community. As I mentioned, all but one time before last week did we fail to fix the eruv in time. We were able to fix last week’s issue at the beginning of this week, but as of the time of this writing, the eruv is down - in a different location.

For me, personally, I take this situation to heart and feel the urgency for the eruv to be operational.  I feel almost as if I am letting the community down by not finding a way to get the job done. Obviously, there are certain factors beyond my control. I know the eruv going down is not something that I have the power to control. With this said, I know most people believe that I am responsible to assure that the eruv remains up. In fact, when someone in the community called to let me know he would not be able to come to Shul, I began to apologize. This individual immediately responded, “it’s not your fault!”   

Many people asked, “What happened? Where and how did it come down? Why didn’t it get fixed”? And so here is the history and timeline of last week’s events: The eruv typically is checked every Thursday morning so that if there is an issue, it can be addressed early Friday morning. Additionally, any time we experience inclement weather, especially after a windy storm, the eruv is checked immediately, sometimes during the storm itself. This happened on Asara B’Teves, Tuesday of that week. On Thursday morning I sent a text message at 8:50 am (as I normally do) to our primary technician Mike, who owns a sign company. More vital is the boom truck he owns which is essential for us to do the needed repairs. Mike did not answer my text. A few hours later, at 11:58am, I called him, but he still did not answer his phone. I proceeded to leave Mike an urgent voicemail. During this same time, I was receiving calls and messages from another Shul in town whose eruv was down, seeking the technician since we share the same service.

At 2:01 Thursday afternoon I received a call from Mike, who told me it would be impossible for him to fix the eruv this week. He suggested that I try to reach our back-up person. I immediately called our backup company (an electrical outfit) to schedule a service for Friday morning. Once again, I was unable to get through; I left a detailed message which usually creates a “ticket” for Steve, the technician, to get in touch with me. An hour crept by and now, noticing it was 3:02 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, I grew a bit more concerned, I called Steve-the-technician directly only to hear that his phone had been disconnected. At 3:42 pm I received an email communication from ABM electric informing me that Steve no longer worked for them, and all the technicians were booked. The email went on to state the company would try to find someone who could be assigned this job at 4:45 am Friday morning. I replied in the positive, hoping they would try to find someone, but realizing that the probability of finding a “new guy” for this kind of work was slim. At 3:46 pm I sent out an email to the community informing everyone about the news we’d received from the College Area Eruv Corporation. Therefore, as time became an issue, I began to resign myself to the fact that the eruv would not be available this Shabbos. For a reason I cannot explain, I checked my email at about 10:15 pm and saw that I had received an email at 10:02 pm confirming a new technician would meet me in front of my house at 4:45 am Friday morning. At 4:50 am I received a call from John, the new tech. I went outside to greet him, but I did not have a good feeling from that first interaction. I realized that it was only five in the morning, but these technicians always start their day early. We drove out to the site of the downed eruv, I in my car and he in his truck: El Cajon Boulevard in front of Vons. I begin to explain to John what needed to be done.

At this point I told myself, “O.K., we got it! The Eruv will get repaired. It was a no- brainer.” Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, not because the job was too difficult (Steve could have done it), but rather from the first hiccup we faced, as the line got stuck on a pole and we needed to start over, this guy John said to me, “This is not going to work.” He repeated this one liner grumble a few times. Additionally, his lack of “seichel” did not help the situation. After several tries, combined with his lack of enthusiasm - to say the least - I was defeated. I finally came to the realization that our eruv would not be repaired in time for this Shabbos.

The final straw that led me to believe that this person did not really want to help us out was when we parted ways. I would sometimes give Steve a few dollars as a tip, expressing gratitude for helping. I decided that even though we did not accomplish the mission - it did not fail, it was aborted - I decided to give something to the new fellow for trying. He answered me with an abrupt “No thanks. I get paid by the hour.” More than what he said was how he said it. It’s hard to explain, but I clearly wondered what was going through his mind during this entire interaction.

The experience left me with two feelings. The first was when I thought the eruv would be repaired, knowing we had the manpower and that my perseverance had succeeded. However, as we say every day when davening a verse from Mishlei 19:21 "רבות מחשבות בלב איש, ועצת ה' היא תקום"  “There are many thoughts in a man’s heart, but the plan of Hashem, that shall stand”. The Malbi’m explains that a human being believes himself to be full of possibilities, potential modes of thought and courses of action, to choose as he wills. Yet the single counsel or plan that actually goes into practical effect is often decided by Hashem, overriding a man’s apparent freedom. I completely missed this important lesson at the very outset. Secondly, it was a subtle reminder that we live in a guest country where we do not know the thoughts of every person we interact with. We hope we are respected by all, but if we are honest to ourselves, we know this is not the case.

As we begin Sefer Shmos, the Jewish people start to feel the Galus – the exile. By the end of the Parsha we begin the redemption promise. The concept of an Eruv is to bind together. I hope and pray that the physical bounds of the Eruv not only create a closeness to the Jewish community, but to the extended general community of San Diego and beyond.     

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayechi - Signs & Simanim                   12 Teves 5782

12/16/2021 12:44:27 PM

Dec16

Signs here, signs there, signs are everywhere! Traveling the road of life, if we take the time to look, there are signs at every twist and turn. There is clear, physical signs which stands out like posted placards, and there are signs that we say are from heaven. Recently, I took notice of the physical signs while visiting with my children. At the intersection of their street, stuck into the ground on all corners were signs reading yield, no outlet, speed limit, and one that read ‘slow down’, giving the impression that this is a street demanding caution – children are present! Many other signs are communicated without words, using pictures or symbols such as those seen on the road - railroad crossing, no turns, gas station, and so on. In airports you will see signs that have both words and pictures, perhaps the pictures are for those who don’t understand English while the words might be for those who can’t visualize how to interpret the picture.

The Hebrew word for sign is Siman, as in Siman Tov Umazal Tov, Yehey Lanu U’L’Chol Yisroel. The things that we see should be a foretelling of something good that should happen to an individual and to the Jewish people.  Sefer Bereishis is replete with signs from the rainbow from the days of Noach to Avraham asking Hashem, “How will he know that he will inherit the land” and during the period of Yitzchok and Eliezer, indicating the need to look for signs when seeking out a wife for Yaakov. Yaakov uses signs to determine which flock he will receive as compensation working for his father-in-law, Lavan. Dreams themselves serve as signs to the future as we read about Yosef, the butler, the baker, Pharoah and Yaakov. The ultimate signs come in the final Parsha of Sefer Bereishis in Parshas Vayechi.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Vayechi states in Bereishis 48:1 "ויהי אחרי הדברים האלה ויאמר ליוסף הנה אביך חולה, ויקח את שני בניו עמו את מנשה ואת אפרים" “A short time after this, Yosef was told that his father was sick. [Yosef went to his father, Yaakov] taking his two sons, Menashe and Ephrayim, along with him”. When Yosef heard that his father Yaakov had turned ill, he took Menashe and Efrayim to receive brachos from Yaakov. The Torah emphasizes Yaakov becoming ill – a detail not mentioned regarding any of the other individuals who die in Bereishis.

The Gemara in Bava Metziah 87a says that until Yaakov Avinu there was no sickness.  He asked Hashem for mercy, and he became sick. Rashi explains that he asked that a person should become sick before he dies so he would be given the opportunity to instruct his children.  The source for this explanation is the Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (chapter 52) who says that from the time of creation until Yaakov’s time, no man would become ill prior to his death; indeed, illness as such did not exist at all, and there was no warning of a person’s imminent demise.  Rather, a man walking on the road or in the marketplace would suddenly sneeze, and his soul would exit via his nostrils. Hence, a sneeze was the precursor of death. Yaakov, however, beseeched Hashem for mercy, praying that his soul not depart suddenly from this world, allowing him to have time to instruct his sons before his passing.  Hashem granted his request, and from then on, people would take ill prior to their death. Therefore, when one sneezes, he is obligated to say לחיים – to life. The Midrash Yelamdainu says that someone else tells the person who sneezed לחיים. Why did the "sneeze" cause death? The RaDa”l, Rav Dovid Luria explains in the Passuk, Bereishis 2:7, that God in creating humanity,” blew into Adam's nostrils the soul of life". Therefore, when a person sneezed, the soul would exit from the same place it had originally entered - hence death. The “sneeze” became the sign of death; the antidote is the saying of Labriyut in Hebrew or Gezuntheit in Yiddish, meaning good health.

An additional sign to note regarding Parshas Vayechi is that it is a Stuma, or a closed Parsha. Almost always there is a break between the end of one parsha to the beginning of the next. Vayechi is an exception to that rule. Chaza”l explain that Yaakov wanted to reveal the “end of days” to his children, but Hashem did not allow him to do so. Instead, (according to some) not only does Yaakov call Yosef and blesses his two children, but all the sons of Yaakov also gather to receive their parting words from their father. Yaakov does not give blessings to his sons; instead, rather prophetically, he tells over their destiny through the essence of who each of them are respectively.

Last week, while in Chicago, a man named Ben Weinschneider saw me learning a little after davening and asked if I mind if he shared some Torah with me. I said of course. He began telling me of a piece in the name of Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch. In Bereishis 49:5-7 Yaakov speaks to Shimon and Levi and rebukes them for their aggressive behavior in the story of Shem and Dina. Yaakov says "ארור אפם כי עז ועברתם כי קשתה, אחלקם ביעקב ואפיצם בישראל"  “Cursed be their rage, for it is fierce, and their fury, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Yaakov and scatter them in Israel”. These words are signs to the Jewish people for all future times. Rav Hirsch asks and then explains why the words disperse them and scatter them, one using the name Yaakov, the other the name Yisrael? The name Yaakov represents the exile aspect of the Jewish people, a time of oppression and persecution. Yisrael, on the other hand, represents the “God won” victorious aspect of the Jewish people. Rav Hirsch says, “The danger to the general wrath of Shimon and Levi’s disposition is only present at a time when the nation is flourishing, when it forms a powerful body of people who could easily be influenced by two compact tribes filled with glowing feelings of strength and power and of the unity and brotherhood of the whole nation. Therefore, in Yisrael: Afitzem/scatter – when in a flourishing state of Israel, they are to be scattered. Levi, in fact, received no land at all when it was divided. Shimon’s province was completely in an enclave, entirely shut in by Yehuda, making it completely dependent upon that powerful tribe. So that at the time when Israel was in a flourishing state, Shimon and Levi’s political influence was completely paralyzed.  But in Galus, in exile, where the pressure of our fate bows everything down and the nation itself is torn asunder, there the danger lies. All feelings of one’s own importance are lost, and there is a sense of vulnerability and oppression. Therefore, the wandering Jew downtrodden and driven all over the world keeps the feelings of the importance of his own person and the sense of belonging to his people. For that the Achalkeim B’Yaakov, the dispersing of Jacob, was of the greatest benefit that the tribes of Shimon and Levi, who were scattered amongst the other tribes. It is interesting to note here, to quote Rav Hirsch, “….that the majority of teachers came from Shimon and Levi. The leaders would be found everywhere, who, with their fiery and proud dispositions would keep alive the energy and the courage, the fire and the noble Jewish pride of the Jewish spirit.” The apparent words Yaakov was giving Shimon and Levi were really hints to their future roles, vitally necessary for Jewish survival during the course of our long exile.

I’d like to add my own little hint regarding the word ‘apam’, meaning ‘rage’, which also contains the word ‘Oph’, meaning ‘nose’. The fury or rage which comes from the nose (as we read about God’s nostrils flaring when He was angry) is used to describe Shimon and Levi. The same nose through which life was blown into is also the nose that blows out fury. These are the same two characteristics of Shimon and Levi: sending rage against the enemy while simultaneously breathing life into the Jews when in exile.

Every one of us has a little of Shimon and Levi in us. We should use our ability to send a message or a sign to stand up against our enemies and send a sign of life, inspiration, and strength to our fellow Jews in times of need.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayigash - The Throw-Up Machine     5 Teves 5782

12/08/2021 12:06:55 PM

Dec8

I was never sure as to why an amusement park was so named. I am curious as to who the amused would be: the spectators or the participants. For those who know me and my motion issues, I don’t think many of the rides are amusing at all! I guess there may be some activities that are fun. Perhaps a ride or two -such as the Ferris Wheel - would amuse me either from the ground or up in the air. For this article, I would say that I was never amused by these parks for a number of reasons. The Roller coaster, Carousel, Merry Go Round, Scrambler, and Tilt-A-Wheel are, for me, just advanced vomit machines that wreak havoc on my body. Why would I want to go on anything like that!

With that said, however, the term ‘roller coaster’ has often been used in the figurative sense about life. That which goes up must come down; life is a roller coaster with twists and turns, ups and downs. The challenge of life is to navigate through it all and not get sick when each of these challenging rides is over. An important lesson to contemplate is that at the amusement park an actual person is controlling the ride, observing all that is going on.  The roller coaster of life can be viewed as challenges, and at times crises which we need to get through.  Here are two vignettes of crisis, one from a few years ago and the other back to Biblical times.   

Jeff Immelt knows something about managing through crises. The former General Electric (GE) chief executive saw the industrial conglomerate through the post-9/11 period and the Great Financial Crisis. He released a book, Hot Seat, earlier this year, defending his leadership after the value of GE dropped by $170 billion during his 16-year tenure. Immelt, who is now a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, told Yahoo Finance he thought the experiences he retold in the book could be valuable to other leaders.

“In a crisis, you have to hold two truths: You have to know that things could always get worse, and at the same time, you have to have vision that there is going to be a future that you need to invest in, ”Immelt stated at Yahoo Finance’s ‘All Markets Summit’. Personally, I would say the opposite is also true: When things are good, they can get better, but we also must be mindful that things can turn for the worse. In life a person always needs to have forward and rear-view vision, looking toward the future while learning from the past. In every generation, and in every person’s personal life you have to hold on to these truths. This is particularly poignant during and after a pandemic which, for the first time in over a century, has spread with the speed of jet travel, continuing to morph, in ways that rivet humankind world-wide. A positive outlook toward a brighter future is essential.

Yosef was the greatest CFO. He weathered the economic storm in Egypt and lead them through the famine. His brilliant insight and vision to store up food from the years of plenty for the years of famine required discipline, coordination, and great planning. Through all of this, he was dealing with a difficult family situation, requiring navigation that would have repercussions until the end of time. Yosef balanced the need to see his brothers repent with his burning desire to reveal his true identity. Yosef was not only an economic genius but also a true family man. He knew when to give it up and reveal his true identity and how to explain the entire situation that needed to happen. The commonality between GE and Yosef’s control of Egypt is that they both experienced the good times first and then the down times. The English actor and activist Jeremy Irons said, "We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams." Only to be topped off by the famous baseball player and manager, Joe Torre,  who quipped, "Unless you have bad times, you can't appreciate the good times."  

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash after the brothers became aware that Yosef was still alive, the Torah states in Bereishis 45:23 "ולאביו שלח כזאת עשרה חמרים נשאים מטוב מצרים, ועשר אתנת נשאת בר ולחם ומזון לאביו לדרך"  “[Yoseph] sent the following to his father: Ten male donkeys, loaded with Egypt’s finest products, as well as ten female donkeys, loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father’s journey.” Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter,** also known as the Imrei Emes, would always show people a particular vort (word) of the Mahara”l. The passuk tells us that Yosef sent to his father ten donkeys. The Mahara”l asks what is the significance of the number ten? Why exactly ten donkeys? The Mahara” l explains that Yosef was telling his father not to be angry at the ten brothers; it wasn’t in their control. Just as a donkey is controlled by its owner, so too the brothers did what they did because of the decree in heaven. Yosef was telling his father, “Do not be upset at the brothers for selling me.” With the ten donkeys, Yosef was implying to his father that what they did was not in their control. Donkeys just act the way their master directs them to; so too the brothers were only being directed by Hashem. Donkeys do not know the reason of their mission; they just go.  Yosef was sending this hint to his father. Telling Yaakov that he should not be upset or angry at them for they were no better than donkeys. The Mahara” l go on to explain “carrying of the best of Mitzrayim” was the reason for the decree in the first place. The design play was to bring Yaakov down to Egypt/Mitzrayim so that the Jews would leave Egypt with a lot of wealth. But the point we need to get into our heads - and more so our hearts - is that everything is controlled by Hashem. We need to send this message to ourselves…When we get hurt by someone, understand that he, the perpetrator, is being controlled by God, and we probably did something to deserve a certain kind punishment.

Yosef’s vision was toward the future and to not relish over the past. Yosef had just finished trying to convince his brothers that he does not blame them; he holds no grudge against them. Now he needs to convince his father of the same. It is one thing for Yosef to forgive his brothers, but Yosef could not forgive his brothers on behalf of his father who suffered greatly because of the sale. Therefore, Yosef needs to convince his father to let go, to forgive his sons for selling Yosef. The sales pitch was the analogy of the ten donkeys and with that Yakov would forgive his sons for what they did to Yosef and the pain and anguish they caused him.

The ups and downs and all of the uncertainty was now cleared up. Yakov is prepared to reunite and have Klal Yisroel come together. So to, if we would only realize everything is from Hashem, it would ultimately bring the Jewish people of today, the children of Yakov all together again.

 

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

**Avraham Mordechai Alter Hebrew: אברהם מרדכי אלתר‎‎; 25 December 1865 – 3 June 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes after the works he authored, was the fourth Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he held from 1905 until his death in 1948.

Parshas Mikeitz / Chanukah - Stop Being the Dreidel and Just Look Up   29 Kislev 5782

12/03/2021 09:04:58 AM

Dec3

Well, welcome to the shopping season of the year. Businesses and marketers have been hard at work for months preparing to lure the lookers and turn them into shoppers and buyers. The world over, especially here in the United States, have commercialized every possible day of the calendar to sell something. Whether it is a religious holiday, a national historic day or someone’s birthday, ’can’t miss sales events where ongoing huge discounts can be used to buy things that we desperately do not need.

On-line shopping has increased greatly, especially during the pandemic. Although people are slow to return to the stores, in-person shopping is picking up as shoppers enjoy the experience of “going” shopping. The ability to try on, see in person, feel the material, and sometimes smell the fragrances enhance the shopping experience. Speaking of feeling, merchandise can also refer to food items. On-line grocery shopping is at an all-time high, benefiting the population who may not have transportation or are unable to enter the stores. The young working class, who would rather spend time on other things other than feeling the fruit and waiting online at a register, have also become ardent online grocery shoppers.  Now I must interject when mentioning feeling of merchandise. In today’s clothing business, there is so much synthetic material that it is actually difficult to determine fabric quality. My father, who graduated from the Philadelphia School of Textile*** or Philadelphia Textile Institute, was able to close his eyes, feel a piece of material, and not only tell you the type of fabric, but even fabric blends. He could tell the percentage of how much of each kind of material was in it. This skill has no value when shopping online.

My personal clothing shopping habits are almost non-existent. Occasionally, I will go to the mall with my wife or, when vacationing, will end up in some type of women’s clothing store. I typically will find myself standing there for hours feeling very uncomfortable. Some high-end stores are brilliant as they strategically place comfortable chairs and couches near racks of clothing so the men can sit while the women shop.   I recall a saying from my Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Wein at my wedding. Rabbi Wein was supposed to be the M’Sader Kiddushin (to officiate) as per the custom. He readily agreed but warned me that he would be flying in that very day from Chicago. With a winter storm that day Rabbi Wein was delayed, and we tried to push off the Chuppah as long as we could, but eventually my uncle (a seasoned Rabbi) stepped in. My uncle, known for enjoying speaking opportunities, gave a rather lengthy message under the wedding canopy. By the time he concluded, Rabbi Wein arrived. Rabbi Wein proceeded to speak. His famous opening words rang out, “It is cruel and unusual punishment for a Chosson and Kallah to have to listen one drasha under the Chuppah, let alone to have to listen to two!” I readily modified this quote to those times spent shopping with my wife: It is cruel and unusual punishment to have to accompany my wife to go shopping in the first place and have to pay for it as well!

But after learning the following piece of Torah, I questioned myself as to what was the real reason for my feeling so uncomfortable, and, more importantly, who was the cause of it?

In this week’s Parshas Mikeitz the verse says that Yosef told his brothers “…and you will be free to circulate the land”. The Torah states in Bereishis 42:34 "והביאו את אחיכם אלי ואדעה כי לא  מרגלים אתם כי כנים אתם, את אחיכם אתן לכם ואת הארץ תסחרו"  “Bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know that you are honorable men and not spies. I will give your brother back to you, and you will be able to do business in [our] land”. Rashi”, on the words, “And in the land you shall trade or do business”, (תסחרו denotes) ‘you shall go around’. Similarly, the words סוחרים   (merchants) and סחורה  (merchandise) (are called so) because the merchants go around looking for merchandise. Rashi elaborates that the word Tischaru comes from the word socher, which means a merchant, ‘tischaru’ means to look for merchandise, and Eretz Tischaru means you may travel around in the land. Rashi explains the same word for merchant and commerce is based on the fact that merchants travel around looking for merchandise. The word ‘schora’ in Aramaic means going around and around, circulating. Therefore, the reason a merchant is called a ‘socher’ is because he travels around. However, this Rashi is a bit difficult to understand. The question begs to be asked, is traveling around the primary objective of a merchant? The primary objective of a merchant is to make money! Yet, a merchant is called a ‘socher’ only because he travels around. Shouldn’t the word for a merchant describe the actual business the merchant is conducting? There are many people who travel around but are not doing so for business! However, this is exactly Rashi’s point. All the merchant does is travel around; it is Hashem who provides the money. The merchant just travels around, nothing more nothing less. We are not the ones generating our income; it is all from above.

On Chanukah we spin the dreidel, and, when it is our turn, as the dreidel spins, we hope we get a gimmel, but when our opponent spins, we hope for a shin. Just as the dreidel spins, Hashem decides what letter it lands on, so too with our business and shopping. All we need to do is spin the dreidel, nothing more. We have to remember that, like the dreidel, nothing turns down here on earth unless it is being turned upon from on High. If it is not being turned up there, nothing happens down here. We go through so much anguish trying to find the right prices and the best bargains while forgetting it is all up to Hashem to decide. True, it is important to make Hishtadlus, to make an effort in all that we do. But sometimes we just spin around too much, thinking that if we spin and turn and go and do a little more it will come out better for us.

So I have come to the conclusion that it is my shortcoming… and a little lack of faith in the shopping business. The dreidel is spun from the top to remind us that everything comes from above, even the anxiety we may bring upon ourselves. If I have to stand around and pay for the shopping, I need to feel the Bracha/Blessing from above that I have the ability to do so.

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

***Philadelphia University’s roots trace back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition, where local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia's textile industry was falling behind its rivals' capacity, technology, and ability. In 1880, they formed the Philadelphia Association of Manufacturers of Textile Fabrics, with Theodore C. Search as its president. Search joined the board of directors of the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art thinking it the perfect partner for his plans for a school and began fundraising in 1882. In early 1884, Search himself taught the first classes at the Philadelphia Textile School, which officially opened on November 5, 1884. In 1942, the Philadelphia Textile School was granted the right to award baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to the Philadelphia Textile Institute (PTI). In 1961, it changed its name to Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

Parshas Vayeishev - Work Today; Live Tomorrow         21 Kislev 5782

11/25/2021 01:04:05 PM

Nov25

The average person thinks retirement is a time reserved for people when they get older. While it may be true that most people retire when they are older, one should seriously think about retirement when they are young. Catherine Valega, a certified financial planner in Winchester, Massachusetts, discusses the concept that at retirement there is  a 40-hour gap in your week that you need to fill. She asks, “Are you sure you have enough activities to keep your body, mind and spirituality occupied for the many years you have ahead of you?”

How much time do you realistically see yourself spending going on long walks, lounging poolside, or curling up on the couch with a good book - especially after the novelty wears off? Think hard. About this. Think long term before you retire. Do you want to volunteer? Go back to school? Pick up a new hobby or resume an old one? Come up with a plan in advance of retirement.  Raymond Jetson, 64, spends a great deal of time working to revamp the concept of what it means to be retired. He should know. He has retired twice and now is at the helm of the social enterprise MetroMorphosis.  He is quoted saying: “…I wake up every day and ask myself, What will you do today that will matter 20 years from now?"

While it is true that the average young Jewish family works hard to provide for their family. For the religious Jewish family, working hard to provide is challenging in many more ways than just making a living wage. The orthodox lifestyle and demands, in addition to observing and fulfilling the Mitzvos of the Torah, complex issues of costs of Jewish education, summer camp, daily increasing costs of kosher food, and so much more.

In this week’s parshas Vayeishev the Torah states in Bereishis 37:1 "וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביב, בארץ כנען"   “Meanwhile, Yaakov settled in the area where his father had lived in the land of Canaan”. This area is known today as Chevron. In the next verse Rashi gives another interpretation of וישב  - that Yaakov desired to dwell לישב in peace. However, there sprung upon him the troubles of Yosaif – the righteous desire to dwell in peace. The Holy One Blessed Be He, said, “It is not sufficient for the righteous that which is prepared for them in the world to come, but they seek to dwell in peace (also) in this world!” The traditional explanation is that Yaakov should not be thinking or planning to retire. This has been my understanding for years; it never occurred to me that this is a very strange understanding that Rashi presents. It does not make sense that this is what Yaakov wants to do.

I am not going to offer an “alternative” answer but will focus on the actual pshat -the true, correct understanding of Yaakov wanting to “retire”. This verse comes to teach us that from the time Yaakov was outside the land of Canaan and the time traveling back to his father’s house, he strove to acquire many physical acquisitions and increase the size of his flock. Yaakov even prided himself by telling Lavan (Bereishis 31:40) how during the day the drought consumed him and he was also consumed by the frost by night. But as soon as he reached his father’s home in Eretz Canaan, he entered a land that was prepared and ready to serve Hashem from two avenues: The first from the place that his holy father Yitzchok and grandfather Avraham lived; the second:it was the holy land that God had chosen. At this point Yaakov no longer wanted to work for things of this world. He ceased his pursuit of financial gain in this world,-  increasing the number of cattle, sheep, and the other physical ‘stuff’. His intent was to accomplish the same things as his forefathers. At this point in his life, he gave over the business, the money making of gashmiyus/physicality with his animals and flock so as to allow and give the opportunity to his sons the same manner as he had done during his [Yaakov’s] earlier years. This explains what the statement  ‘Yaakov did not want to go out’ means. He no longer wanted to go out and shepherd; he wanted to go learn and be a part of his father’s house. This is exactly what Avraham and Yitzchok did when they reached a certain age. They separated, distanced themselves from money-making propositions. Instead of pursuing money they pursued the service to Hashem, preparing themselves for prophecy and ever-deepening connection to Hashem. This all took place in Eretz Canaan, the land Hashem seeks out for holiness and greatness. This was Yaakov’s vow earlier when he says in Bereishis 28:21, “…and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then I will dedicate myself totally to God”. Another proof is that the Torah states in Bereishis 35:27 that Yaakov thus came to his father Isaac in Mamre, at Kiryat Arba, better known as Chevron. This is where Avraham and Yitzchok resided. The passuk is not coming to inform us that the location was Chevron, because everyone knew that. Rather it comes to teach us Yaakov’s reason for tracing the steps of his father. In fact, Chevron was a rocky land that was not suitable for his flock to graze. It was perfect for his ‘Hisbodedus’, his self-seclusion and meditation to be with Hashem. Therefore, he gave over his “business” of cattle and flock to his children and sent them to Shechem, a place far away from Chevron but better suited for grazing.

Yaakov chose to return to his true passion, a passion he had when he was a young boy dwelling in the tent of Torah. As a youngster he was able to learn in Yeshiva and be close to Hashem one hundred percent of the time, learning strictly on the spiritual realm. Out of necessity he went to work and became a wealthy businessman, raised a large family, and made enough to return to a place that was conducive for this new job in life. Typically, someone who makes a great deal of money wants, actually needs, to make more money.  Shlomo HaMelech states in Koheles 5:9 “Whoever loves silver (money) will not be sated with silver”. Yaakov was able to overcome the natural inclination man has for money and possessions, and leaving it all  to work for God.

Yaakov’s retirement did  not consist of sitting in a rocking chair on the porch reading the paper every day. Yaakov’s settling would be to go back and do what his passion was from the beginning: to serve Hashem. Every Jew needs to appreciate that our ultimate job is to serve Hashem as much as possible. Yes, life requires a person to earn a living* and at times not have enough time to serve Hashem as much or in the manner they would prefer. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arises on a day off, a day free from work such as a Sunday or legal holiday, this is the opportunity to use the time to work for Hashem. Later in life when, God willing, we are blessed with financial security, we will focus and dedicate all our resources in Avodas Hashem, “working for Hashem” in the years of our “retirement”.            

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*This does not and should not preclude a person’s Mitzva, the opportunity to serve God in every capacity - especially in the business world. This essay speaks to exclusivity in terms of physical retirement from a job, allowing us all the precious time to dedicate our attention fully to Hashem in other areas that they could not do during their working years.

Parshas Vayishlach - Turn something Small into something Big       15 Kislev 5782

11/18/2021 11:14:57 PM

Nov18

The United States of America is, by any measure, the wealthiest, most powerful, and most influential country in the history of the world.  With that said, it also has the largest wealth gap of any nation in the world.  This is not praise; it is a reality which unfortunately is part of a serious side-effect of being a capitalistic country.  Please understand – I am fully in favor of people earning a good living.  At the same time, however, we must accept the responsibility of taking care of those less fortunate, of those who have had fewer opportunities to obtain a good education. I am speaking not of those who choose not to work hard; I am speaking of those who are less fortunate, whose chances for success are either severely limited or not available at all.  This is not a political/philosophical discussion.  I am referring to the hope and belief that we all agree on the principles of earning and supporting.

I believe that one reason there is such disparity lies in the fact that the wealthy do not live amongst those who are desperately poor and therefore fail to truly recognize the need.  There is far too much lip service with regard to claiming we all should take care of the less fortunate.  Here in San Diego, I am so close yet so far away from the severe homeless crisis right here in this beautiful, affluent city.  While I may live in a relatively modest home, it is comfortable, spacious enough for our family’s needs, and in viewing the big picture, provides excellent shelter.  We have plenty of healthy, delicious food.  We live amid a beautiful, close and caring community.  Yet, when I drive around the city, I cringe at the homeless situation we all tend to feel sorry about and wonder how these people live, how much healthy food they have to eat. 

A few days ago a young man and woman knocked on my door.  I had to decide whether to open the door or not.  Please keep in mind, the range of random people ringing my doorbell: missionaries on a Sunday morning, the mom and kids selling cookies, petitioners, and delivery guys dropping something at the front door.  I have no way of explaining why I open the door for some of these people and choose not to do so for others.  In this case, I decided to go outside and speak with the young man & woman on the front steps.   They began to tell their story, which I initially listened to somewhat half-heartedly.  They explained they were collecting for a religious charity which assured that the entire donation would go directly to help the homeless population of San Diego, offering shelter, food and clothing. I was about finished with being polite, ready to say, “No thank you”, but there was something that stopped me, made me continue listening.  The young man told me that he was once homeless and now wanted to give back, to try to help the homeless in a meaningful, purposeful way. At that I gave them a donation which was more than I would ever give to the typical person coming to the front door. There was a direct connection, an avenue for me to help (but not solve) those around us in need. This young man ‘owned his word; his experiences and his inner drive to help others in distress were precious to him. Such focus to help himself and now help others says far more than others who have inherited wealth and are content to simply live the ‘good life’. 

I must say that there are plenty of opportunities to help the homeless; we may not be able to fix the problem, but we can try to help individuals one by one. I recall seeing a woman from Beth Jacob in the parking lot of a shopping center going over to a homeless woman and speaking to her for about ten minutes. It blew me away. It only cost her a few minutes of her time to do an elite chessed. I also met someone who keeps boxes of healthy breakfast bars in her car, handing them out to homeless individuals on the street. I myself, prior to walking into a 7-11, noticed a homeless person and instead of giving just a handout of money I asked what I could get him to drink. He asked for a hot drink, I paid the two dollars and change and had the hot drink delivered to the man outside.

The individual who has lived hunger and poverty, who has ‘been there, done that’, rings out.  This is an individual who knows what it’s like to rise up from nothing, who values even the smallest things in life.  This lesson is clearly seen in the Torah on multiple occasions, but this week is especially poignant.

The Torah states in this week’s Parsha Vayishlach Bereishis 32:25 "ויותר יעקב לבדו, ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר"   “Jacob remained alone. A stranger [appeared and] wrestled with him until just before daybreak”. Rashi comments on the words ‘And Jacob remained alone’. He forgot פכים קטנים  small jars and returned for them. This Rashi is brought as an explanation in Gemara Chullin 91a which explains that this verse is speaking of Jacob wrestling with the angel. The verse states: “And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:25). “Rabbi Elazar says: The reason Jacob remained alone was that he remained to collect some small pitchers that had been left behind. From here it is derived that the possessions of the righteous are dearer to them than their bodies. And why do they care so much about their possessions? It is because they do not stretch out their hands to partake of stolen property”.

Pachim Ketanim is something of your own sweat and tears, your own handiwork that was not served up to you on a silver platter.  We know that Yaakov Avinu at this juncture in his life was a wealthy man.  Nevertheless, he cared for and risked being harmed by returning to retrieve something that someone else would have viewed as ‘disposable’ or ‘replaceable’, not feel the true value and meaning.

I am always amazed, actually dumbfounded when people simply state that the Shul should do such and such.  The Shul is the collective entity of every one of its members and participants of the community.  The Shul is not a person. People should be doing what they are claiming the Shul should do.  It is always easier for the Shul to do, to spend – and it does – but there must always be a balance of responsibility from the membership and community at large. It is always easier to spend someone else’s money than one’s own.  A person who works hard appreciates the results so much more than the individual who inherits the results of someone else’s labor.  In Pirkei Avos 5:26 it states: הא אומר, לפום צערא אגרא  Ben Hei Hei says: The reward is in proportion to the exertion. Even though this Mishna is speaking of Torah learning and fulfillment of Mitzvos, I nevertheless consider it to be as true with ordinary, everyday work and obtaining of possessions.

Reb Yisroel Salanter points out when Rashi says possessions of the righteous are dearer to them than their bodies he focuses on the word Tzadikim, the righteous. It is the righteous who consider their money or possessions greater and dearer than their bodies, specifically pointing out their bodies - not the bodies of others. The righteous do not consider their money or possessions more precious than someone else’s. 

I think the next time we find ourselves alone with our thoughts, we should think of someone else outside of our particular comfort zone. Take some of our precious, hard-earned little jugs and do something big, something righteous with them. This is the ultimate display of how a Tzadik sees his own precious items.  They are not necessarily for himself; they are, indeed, ultimately for others!

Parshas Vayeitzay - Risk + Investment = Success     7 Cheshvan 5782

11/11/2021 01:28:20 PM

Nov11

This past week the Shul hosted people who were visiting  San Diego to attend an actuarial conference. Some of them, due to responsibilities at the conference, arrived late;  as I reviewed the times and dates of the Shul activities and informed them of all the codes necessary to access the Shul, I made a remark about numbers and figures:  “One of our congregants asked one of the guests, what are some of the best actuarial jokes out there? The actuary immediately quirked,  ’None.’” That may well be the case! People view actuaries as numbers people with no sense of humor, ha ha. While it may be true for some, it isn’t necessarily true for all of them.

There are many kinds of insurance: auto, renter’s, homeowners, flood, earthquake, malpractice, fire, theft, collision, liability, etc. Do we get them all? Is every insurance policy necessary? Are we obligated under the law to buy and maintain insurance? Some people are risk takers, and each person has a different tolerance level. Even those who choose to take out an insurance policy still have a number of choices to make regarding coverage limits and costs for deductibles. Generally speaking, a lower premium will yield a higher deductible while a higher premium will reflect a lower deductible. And then…there is the ultimate question: Do we need insurance? Is buying Insurance permitted in Halacha or is it showing a lack of faith in Hashem? Reb Moshe Feinstein zt”l has a responsa in the Igros Moshe Orach Chaim IV #48 - “Permissibility: Relationship to Bitachon” (faith).  Another rather crucial concern is the insurance companies.  Like all other businesses, insurance companies constantly evaluate ways to boost profits while cutting losses. It is up to the savvy consumer to take the time each year to review the renewal policy – even if the overall cost and premium remain the same as the previous year.  As an aside, here is an interesting analogy: just as orange juice containers tend to be priced similarly, the actual containers may contain fewer ounces – a range of sixty-four to fifty-nine ounces in a container.  In other words, the insurance premium may be the same, but the coverage is not.  Insurance varies greatly, depending upon age, gender, overall health, geographic location, & so forth.  

The field of actuarial science mathematically calculates all these variables to arrive at  a price tag. Actuaries are highly skilled specialists in quantifying risk, critical to the insurance industry. Actuaries earning CAS credentials work primarily in the property and casualty insurance industry, in areas such as personal lines insurance (e.g., auto, homeowners), commercial lines insurance (e.g., medical malpractice, workers compensation), and reinsurance.  Actuaries assess and manage the risks of financial investments, insurance policies, and other potentially risky ventures. They assess financial risks, combining theories of probability, economic theory, statistical analysis, and computer science. According to the Society of Actuaries, approximately 48 percent of actuaries in the U.S. work for insurance companies. The use of statistics and percentages to analyze financial impact is seen in Halacha and in the Torah.  We will be reading one of the primary sources in our Torah portion this week.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Vayeitzay states in Bereishis 28:20-22 "וידר יעקב נדר לאמר, אם יהיה אלוקים עמדי ושמרני בדרך הזה אשר אנכי הולך ונתן לי לאכל ובגד ללבש. ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי, והיה ה' לי לאלוקים. והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהיה בית אלוקים וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך"  “Jacob made a vow. ‘If God will be with me’, he said, ‘if He will protect me on the journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then I will dedicate myself totally to God. Let this stone that I have set up as a pillar become a temple to God. Of all that You give me, I will set aside a tenth to You’. This is nothing short of a typical insurance policy! Namely the Neder is the contract: protection, bread, clothing, and safe return home is the Coverage; the Premium is the ten percent.

But was Yaakov Avinu only looking for financial security? On the one hand, based upon many commentaries that Darshan/expound upon the double language of ‘ahsair t’ahsair’ to indicate that if someone gives his ten percent of earnings, he or she will be rewarded, receiving a return of double or some kind of financial benefit far beyond the initial charitable investment.  

Rav Moshe Shternbuch in his sefer Ta’am V’Daas explains the need to infer that the giving of Maaser (ten percent) is not specifically about money or financial giving and receiving. Rather, everything that God gives and bestows upon us - even the wisdom with which He endows us - needs to be tithed. The reward a person will merit and receive will be filled with blessing and success. It is said in the name of Reb Moshe Shapiro zt”l that he instructed the students of the yeshiva to dedicate and grant one hour per day to help others become wiser. He coined a phrase for this time as “Avodas HaKodesh”- holy service. He promised, he guaranteed those students that if they followed his word, they would merit excellence and success in their own learning. It is also said in the name of Reb Shimon Shkop zt”l, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Shaar HaTorah in Grodno, ”Just as tzedakah (righteousness) with money has a segula/treasure to become wealthy, so, too, in spirituality: if a person with extraordinary talent in knowledge separates and ‘tithes’ his time for someone else, he will be guaranteed sevenfold of spirituality greatness.

Reb Shimon Shkop was not only ‘suggesting’ a student to do this; he made it a requirement of the entire student body. There are stories told that there were certain students in the Yeshiva who, even after davening for Heavenly assistance in their Torah learning and growth, did not see it until they accepted upon themselves this commitment to contribute an hour a day of their studies to learn with someone weaker than they.

How and why the ten percent became the secret number of successes is beyond the scope of this article. In fairness the Gemara Kesubos 50 puts a twenty percent limit to give. According to most opinions this law applies only to agriculture and not necessarily to cash. Nevertheless, the lesson is that when we give, we get back, receiving in turn an even greater amount than we contributed.

No two people are created the same; some have talent in one area while others are stronger in another area. Every human being is ‘wealthy’ in some talent or skill. Every one of us  has the ability to share that knowledge and information, assisting those who are lacking in that area. It behooves individuals to seek out their blessing that Hashem has given them and use it in some fashion to share and help those less fortunate who could be elevated, assisted by your help. This, in essence, is a vital insurance policy for our future in both the physical and spiritual realms of life, both here in this world and in the world to come. Yaakov Avinu took out the first policy; we, his children, need to renew the policy every year to ensure the continued kindness with which Hashem created the world. It is our responsibility that we continue to maintain it.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky 

Parshas Toldos - Seeing Behind the Lens   1 Kislev 5782

11/04/2021 09:17:15 PM

Nov4

Twenty-two years ago, a young Chareidi Israeli couple arrived in San Diego with their one-month-old baby. The San Diego destination was not by choice; it was a journey of  necessity. Their baby, born without a cornea in one eye, was flown to San Diego so that he could undergo a newly developed cornea transplant operation for children born without a cornea. And so a young Chareidi couple travelled with their newborn baby from Israel to the Shiley Eye Center, nine thousand miles away from home, in order to meet the highly-specialized cornea surgeons who would hopefully give sight to the second eye of this baby boy. As the young couple prepared to leave for their trip to America, the father, who had never left Israel before and who knew only a few words of English, felt the need to discuss the situation with one his Rabbeim (teachers) from his Yeshiva.

 At the time, the Yungerman (term used for a young man learning in Kollel) was learning in Yeshiva Kol Torah in Bayit Vegan. His Rebbi, Rabbi Moshe Kopshitz, not only gave him encouragement and reassurance but a beautiful parting Dvar Torah, as is the Halacha when friends part ways.  This Dvar Torah was both touching and befitting  their upcoming, challenging trip. Rabbi Kopshitz quoted the verse from the Torah located in both the first and second paragraphs of the Shema. The passuk in Devarim 6:8 states "וקשרתם לאות על ידיך, והיו לטטפת בין עניך"  “Bind [these words] as a sign upon your hand, and let them be an emblem in between your eyes”.  There is a well-known challenge from Jews who take the written law literally and wear the head Tefillin literally on their face between their eyes. The question is, ”Why do we wear them where we do?” Rabbi Kopshitz explained that the eyes do not do the seeing; in fact, the eyes are only the lenses. It is the brain that receives the information and translates this into “seeing” something. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to place the head Tefillin precisely between the eyes but also above on the forehead, at the location of the brain. This makes perfect sense, and with these words this young father was off with his wife and baby to begin the mission. I am not completely sure if the father fully understood the concept of the cornea transplant and how it was supposed to work scientifically or whether the dvar Torah came before or after the explanation of the procedure. Nevertheless, the coming together of the procedure and how it was supposed to work combined with the Dvar Torah now became one and the same. The two were inseparable. Simultaneously, halfway across the globe Dr. Stuart Brown was making medical history. In 1991, when the Shiley Eye Center opened its doors.  Dr. Brown, through  a grant from the Shiley family, developed a way to perform corneal transplantation in babies who lacked a cornea. Dr. Brown’s theory was that if the body was to receive a cornea soon after birth, the brain would potentially connect to it, giving the chance of sight, hypothesizing that since the brain interprets images, it will send the connecting signals to the lens, perhaps creating vision in that eye with the new cornea. Timing was critical.  The brain needed to connect to a lens as soon as possible. The potential for success was directly dependent upon the amount of time which had transpired with no connection.

Dr. Brown’s incredible insight demonstrates how we each need to think about what we see, taking deliberate time to discern for the good or for the bad. We hear different idioms in the English language that resonate with this line of thinking:  seeing is believing, see the truth, see how the land lies, see the light, there are none so blind as those who will not see, see eye to eye, just you wait and see, and so forth. These expressions do not speak about physical sight; they use the word sight figuratively. This is not a foreign concept to us; we clearly see this throughout Jewish philosophy and literature, as we see in the following episode.

The Torah states in this week’s Parshas Toldos in Bereishis 27:27 "ויגש וישק לו וירח את ריח בגדיו ויברכהו, ויאמר ראה ריח בני כריח שדה אשר ברכו ה' "  “[Jacob] approached and kissed him. [Isaac] smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him. He said, ‘See, my son’s fragrance is like the perfume of a field blessed by God’. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein of Dvinsk in his commentary Meshech Chochma on Torah asks the obvious question: ”How is it possible to see an aroma?” Rav Meir Simcha understands that this is based upon two principles, both of which are not focused on the physical. The Midrash explains Yitzchok’s sight became weak and he could not see, meaning Yitzchok could not see the evil that his son Esau had gone out to do. He was blinded by the fact that he could not accept his own son not following in his ways. Second, the Zohar (242, 2) explains the words ‘to see’ is either referring to God or to Yitzchok. The Zohar says they are both correct because Ruach HaKodesh, the Divine Spirit and word, comes forth from the mouth of the righteous. Either explanation demonstrates seeing as an intellectual understanding, a complex comprehension of any situation in life. An additional illustration is seen in the following Gemara. 

The Gemara Rosh Hashana 26b records that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: When I went to the district of Kan Nishrayya, I heard that they called  a rooster sechvi. The Gemara explains how this information serves to clarify the meanings of biblical verses: …a rooster is called sechvi; Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: And if you wish, you can say that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said this: What is the verse that employs this term? “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who has given understanding to the sechvi (Job 38:36), which should be understood as follows: “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts”: These are the kidneys that are hidden in the body; “or who has given understanding to the sechvi”: This is a rooster, a bird who knows to crow at fixed times during the night. Rashi explains the word Sechvi is and Aramaic word that means see. Accordingly, God calls the rooster sechvi because He gave it an extraordinary ability to discern (to see) the precise moment when morning dawns. On a deeper level in Parsha Vayera 19:28 the Torah says וישקף אברהם  and Avraham stared out. However, Avraham didn’t merely stare – he thought deeply. He internalized.  Targum Onkelos explains the word Vayashkeif as V’Istchi - meaning wisdom. We must always internalize, process, discern. The term ‘hashkfa’ means philosophy – a way of processing thought.  A means for seeing through difficult situations while holding fast to the synthesis of wisdom such situations can produce. The word ‘mishkafayim’ means glasses.  Glasses help us to see with more clarity, helping to give meaning to text or to general vision.

As a Jew we should not react or do things as we see them with the naked eye. The naked eye is exactly that, naked without the brain interpreting and giving meaning to a set of circumstances. Becoming an observant Jew is not limited to going through the motions of performing the Mitzvos. The level we should aspire to when fulfilling and observing any Mitzva is the thought process, to literally seeing how this action connects me to Hashem. It is the brain that gives us the Kavana/intent and direction of where our thoughts ought to be. If we are seen doing Mitzvos without any thought or perspective, then it is an eye piece without the cornea, a lack of connection to the ultimate source of comprehension. Let us not only see ourselves doing Mitzvos and learning Torah; we need to simultaneously think about what we are seeing, what we are perceiving. Then we will truly have the Chochma  - the wisdom -  to connect to God!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Chayei Sorah - The Faxts Eventually Come Out      22 Cheshvan 5782

10/27/2021 03:58:03 PM

Oct27

This Dvar Torah is, L’Ilui Nishma, in memory of HaRav Kalman Moshe ben Reuven Avigdor Packouz zt”l  whose Yarzeit was this past Sunday, the 18th of Cheshvan

Two years have passed since  this parsha of Chayei Sorah, distributed by  the world-wide Torah Fax publication, was not sent out by its founder. Even the previous week’s Torah Fax was sent out and read posthumously. Rabbi Shraga Simmons of Aish HaTorah eulogized his friend, Rabbi Kalman Packouz, the week after he passed. One of the major accomplishments Reb Kalman was responsible for producing was the Torah Fax. Here is a snippet of that article:

“[…Rabbi] Kalman’s second breakthrough with technology came in 1992. In this pre-Internet era, he collected fax numbers of homes and offices, then created a subscriber list for Shabbat Shalom Weekly – a newsletter featuring life lessons from the weekly Torah portion and Jewish insights into personal growth. Stamped with Kalman’s huge smile (and “thumbs-up”) the “Fax of Life” was warm and witty, with insightful stories, Torah lessons for life, and a pithy “quote of the week.”

What started as a local fax sent to 50 people, expanded globally, becoming the gold standard in Jewish adult education. Shabbat Shalom reached every corner of the globe. It was posted on office bulletin boards, Jewish community centers, and synagogues. With the mass adoption of email in the mid-1990s, Shabbat Shalom Weekly became the first Jewish e-newsletter to reach 100,000 subscribers. In 27 years, Kalman never missed sending the newsletter every week. Its impact was both vast and enormous.

Approximately five years before his passing, Kalman visited San Diego twice a year. He attended a certain institute for health-related issues but never let on (and we could never tell) that he was there trying to treat his illness. His visits typically lasted two weeks. During that time he davened in my Shul and ate with my family on Friday nights. I never really knew the depth of who he was and the incredible accomplishments which led to his world-wide fame. One of my simple connections to him was that we knew his brother-in-law and sister-in-law. In short, Rabbi Kalman Packouz was the most unassuming individual one could meet. He was humble beyond description, always offering to be of assistance in any which way possible. Our many discussions regarding the plight of the Jewish people, outreach, and Torah learning stimulated and enhanced my weekly divrei Torah, such as the one you are reading now. He, too, as a writer for many years, was always looking for meaningful stories to share with the world through his Torah Fax. One time a personal story of mine came up in discussion. Rabbi Packouz wanted to write it up and send it out. I declined his request, and he, being very persistent, asked me every time he visited for permission to use the story. Each time I said no, eventually telling him that I would probably use it in an upcoming book or other publication, and I did not want to let the story out just yet. He pleaded, in his very calm and soothing voice and tone,  trying to convince me that so many people would read it and learn from it. I always thanked him, apologized but said, “I cannot let you use it.” I had my reasons why and not everything in life needs to be revealed. Well, due to recent events the time has come to share this story……….

The Story Behind the Broken China Plate

During the first year or two following our arrival in San Diego, we invited each and every member of the Shul for a Shabbos meal. Some were older couples, others joined us with their small children. At the time, our children were also very young and were susceptible to the same scenario that occurred.

We always strive to have a beautiful Shabbos table, and at one point actually used our real china for our Shabbos meals. We also used a disposable plastic table covering to protect the tablecloth from staining from spilled items.

One Friday night our Shabbos dinner guests were a family with small children.  One of the guest’s children pulled the plastic tablecloth (I hope accidentally), causing one of the china plates to fall off the table and break into a number of pieces upon hitting the floor. My initial reaction was anger, frustration, even rage (thinking to myself how did that happen!?), but I regained my composure  quickly because it was the guest’s child who had caused the china to break.  I began to tell them in a calm and soothing voice “oh don’t worry about it, it’s only a plate”. I don’t even think the parents paid too much attention to it and again I said, “It’s fine, things like that happen,” etc.

Later that night I thought to myself, “If one of my children had broken that plate, I wouldn’t have stopped yelling and screaming for hours. I would have been so mad and angry, and would have said things like “can’t you be more careful, or how could you be so clumsy, or it’s such an expensive item to break, how can you be so careless?” Explaining to my child that an expensive plate had been broken because they had been so clumsy and careless.  

I realized the hard way that I didn’t yell at the stranger how much more so I shouldn’t yell at my own children whom I love so deeply. I was calm for the company and brushed the entire event aside and just cleaned it up. I should always do that for my own flesh and blood.

I made a statement to myself at that time (form of a neder/vow) that I will give each of my children a framed piece of that broken plate when they get married and have children of their own, so it will serve as a reminder of this incident.

Accompanying the framed broken plate, I wrote: This framed piece of china is from that  plate, broken during a Friday night dinner when you were small. Keep it as a reminder never to yell or scream at your children or spouse, especially for things you wouldn’t yell at others for. Don’t yell at the ones you love the most, your family.

Love Abba

Below the plate in Hebrew it reads: to my children (their names) and a verse from Iggeres HaRamban "תתנהג תמיד לדבר כל דבריך בנחת לכל אדם בכל עת, ובזה תנצל מן הכעס   “Accustom yourself to speak gently to all people at all times. This will protect you from anger.”

In this week’s Parshas Chayei Sorah both Sorah Immeinu and Avraham Avinu die. The Torah, in both instances, records in Bereishis 23:1 "ויהיו חיי שרה מאה שנה ועשרים שנה ושבע שנים שני חיי שרה"  and then Bereishis 25:7 "ואלה ימי שני חיי אברהם אשר חי מאת שנה ושבעים שנה וחמש שנים" These are the days Sorah and Avraham lived. Every day of their each of their lives was lived as a full life. So too, Reb Kalman literally lived every day of his life. We also have a tradition that a Tzadik’s life lives on long after he  physically passes away. Kalman’s impact on the Jewish world lives on in many ways after his physical passing. As again quoted by Rabbi Simmons: “In recent years, Kalman expanded the Shabbat Shalom Weekly to three languages – English, Hebrew and Spanish. Then, at the suggestion of a colleague, he created a "Digital Eternity" project, whereby the Shabbat Shalom archives serve as a database to continue sending out a relevant weekly email in perpetuity”.

הרב קלמן משה בן ראובן אביגדור זצ״ל        יהי זכרו ברוך                                     

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Lech L'Cha/Vayeira - In the Footsteps of our Forefather               15 Cheshvan 5782

10/21/2021 03:51:27 PM

Oct21

Hotels, cars and flight all fall under the category of travel.  There is an on-going battle between the consumer and the service provider. Every provider wants our business, but the customer wants to pay as little as possible. There are many perks and benefits for members and frequent users which accompany repetitive business. I, for one, am always trying to figure out the best deals and often try to calculate which options to choose from. One of the many choices presented to someone wishing to rent a car  is the gas category. The three gas options are: A) refuel yourself and return the car with a full tank of gas; B) prepay for a full tank of gas (at local prices), regardless of how many gallons of gas remain in the tank at the time the car is returned; C) return the car with less than a full tank of gas and get charged for a full tank of gas at a rate that could be three times the price of the local gas station.

Obviously, no one would choose option C at the outset, but sometimes things do not go as planned and there is no choice. Typically, I choose option A,  refilling the tank myself so the car is returned with a full tank.  But the combination of increased pressure of travel time and my aging is becoming more of a factor. I have become more discerning in certain situations. Generally speaking, if I am returning a car to an airport or to a location that I am familiar with and know exactly where to fill up prior to returning the car,  I will choose to do so. Recently, I returned a car to a location that I had never been to previously.  Knowing this in advance, I chose option B, prepaying for a full tank of gas, eliminating the worry of where I might find a gas station in an area I did not know. In addition, I returned the car very early in the morning and did not need any extra headaches or concerns, especially from my wife.

Pre-paying for the full tank of gas is obviously a convenience, and in life we pay for convenience. Nevertheless, I try to get my money’s worth by returning the car with the least amount of gas possible. This requires some mathematics in calculating how many more miles I will need to travel and how many miles per gallon this vehicle gets, resulting in how many gallons of gas to purchase just prior to returning the rental. On my last trip I felt added pressure from my passenger that I filled up a bit too much (for fear of having to stop again for more gas) and had about thirty-four miles to go until empty, meaning I put in about one extra gallon. For me, this is a thrill and a challenge, while my passenger views it as unnecessary stress that can be avoided by spending more.

In the small picture of life, many of us have travel stories and challenges, but in the greater picture we all go through challenges as we travel the road of life. Life is a journey that comes with curves, turns, potholes, wrong turns, poor directions, and the need to navigate through it all in the best, most practical, and beneficial manner.

 From the moment we are born, the gas tank is full until we run out of gas as we come to our final resting place. During our lives we continuously re-fill the tank until the gas station closes. The book of Bereishis, also known as Sefer HaAvos the book of our fathers (Genesis) lays the groundwork for the future of the Jewish people. This is highlighted by what Chaza”l say: "מעשה אבות סימן לבנים"  “the actions of the forefathers are a sign for the children”. The process of traveling through life and facing the tests and tribulations of living our lives is clearly seen by the life of Avraham Avinu. Although Avraham is mentioned in five parshios, the main part of his life is described in Lech Lecha and Vayeira. Avraham’s life is strung together, linked by the major, famous ten tests beginning in Lech Lecha and ending in Vayeira.

The Torah in last week’s Parsha Lech Lecha states in Bereishis 12:1 "ויאמר ה' אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך"  “God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you”. The Torah in this week’s Parshas Vayeira states in Bereishis 22:2 "ויאמר קח נא את בנך את יחידך אשר אהבת את יצחק ולך לך אל ארץ המוריה, והעלהו שם לעולה על אחד ההרים אשר אמר אליך"   “Take your son, the only one you love -Isaac - and Go Away to the Moriah area,. Bring him as an all-burned offering on one of the mountains that I will designate to you”. Rabbeinu Bachya, on the words Lech Lecha in Vayeira,explains there were ten tests upon which Avraham was tested. Avraham was found to be complete and wholesome in all of them. The first test was the command to leave his birthplace;  the last was the Akeida. Pirkei Avos 5:3 also states, ‘With ten tests Avraham was tested and he stood in all of them’. Nevertheless, we find that the last test was the greatest and most challenging of all. One reason is clear: the first test came along with a guarantee that it will be for your good and benefit. The last, in stark contrast, was to sacrifice his only son. A second reason is the mere fact that Avraham was running away from bad; in the last one he was on the way to do something good. A final thought on the matter is that the words Lech Lecha do not need to be taken literally in the physical sense of going from point A to point B. Rather, the Lech Lecha is a spiritual journey leaving the Avoda Zarah, the idol worship in his birthplace, traveling to a holy place, namely Har Hamoriah. One can deduce the leaving from the first Lech Lecha indicated by the very next letter Mem, which connotes from and going away, while the second place, indicated by the word El, means to someplace great.

Life is not just about getting from one place to the next. We should look at our lives and travel a route that combines all three explanations. As we grow closer to Hashem, the tests grow correspondingly more difficult and challenging. Hashem does not need to test the wicked and those who are distant from Him. He tests those who are closest to Him. Secondly, we know the difference between good and evil. Throughout all the challenges of life, we should only choose goodness, leaving the bad. Finally, our travels through life should take us to spiritual matters that not only will give us the fuel and energy for this world, but will take us on our final destination in the World to Come.  

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bereishis/Noach - The Light Before the Darkness         2 Cheshvan 5782

10/08/2021 08:08:34 AM

Oct8

Baruch Hashem, we had another action-packed, beautiful Yom Tov season! For the most part everything was pretty much the same routine through the high holidays and into Sukkos. I have been using the same Sukkah for the past thirty years, with some modifications, such as adding a few new decorations, some upgraded lighting, and improving its structure with some new lumber and hardware. My son and I assembled the Sukkah the day after Yom Kippur and had a few days to ensure everything was just right… but it wasn’t. Oddly enough one of my two lights went off and on intermittently and for the life of me I could not understand why. The oddity was that the light would go off, and as I entered the Sukkah the light went back on. Keep in mind these were not new lights. I thought that perhaps there was a bad connection, or perhaps the wiring was compromised. But then I realized the other light worked just fine. This kept me baffled for a few days. As Yom Tov quickly approached, I needed to take stronger action because I could not have the light turn itself  off every time I enter our Sukkah and then turn itself back on during Yom Tov.    

I took a better look at the light fixture, examining it a bit more thoroughly and noticed a little switch and bulb at the end of the four-foot overhead light fixture. Even though I’ve had these fixtures for a few years, it never occurred to me that it might have a motion sensor option. Nowhere on the box which had once contained this light fixture did it claim to have such a feature.  It then hit me that the little bulb looked like it was thinking!  The light bulb in my head turned on causing me to see that it was indeed a motion sensor. The switch next to it must have been flipped, activating the motion sensor. The other fixture remained constantly on because its switch remained off.

At times, each of us has spent hours trying to come up with a solution or an idea when suddenly a cerebral light bulb goes off blaring the answer with crystal clarity. The light bulb idiom applies when one is suddenly struck with an ingenious idea, insight, or revelation. The idea of applying light to a concept is nothing new to the Jewish people;  we are destined to be an “Or Lagola” a light unto the nations. But the concept of light runs far deeper and has lasted much longer than almost anything in history, as referred to last Shabbos and hinted about this coming Shabbos.

In Parshas Bereishis the Torah states in Bereishis 1:3 "ויאמר אלוקים יהי אור, ויהי אור"  “And God said let there be light, and there was light”. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov (1783 – 1841),in his work "the Bnei Yisaschar" enlightens us on the word “Or”/ Light. On this verse the Midrash Rabbah Chap.2 quotes a verse from Yeshayahu 41:2 "מִ֤י הֵעִיר֙ מִמִּזְרָ֔ח צֶ֖דֶק יִקְרָאֵ֣הוּ לְרַגְל֑וֹ יִתֵּ֨ן לְפָנָ֤יו גּוֹיִם֙ וּמְלָכִ֣ים יַ֔רְדְּ יִתֵּ֤ן כֶּֽעָפָר֙ חַרְבּ֔וֹ כְּקַ֥שׁ נִדָּ֖ף קַשְׁתּֽוֹ" “Who has roused a victory from the east, summoned him to His service? Has delivered up nations to him, And trodden sovereigns down? Has rendered their swords like dust, Their bows like wind-blown straw? The Midrash indicates this is a reference to Avraham Avinu, but the Midrash also notes that one should not read the word “roused "העיר with an ayin but rather "האיר"  to enlighten with an aleph. The Bnei Yissaschar asks what is the reason that Yeshayahu the prophet did not write it explicitly with an aleph to begin with? He explains that before the original sin of Adam HaRishon, the leather garment or covering Hashem made for Adam was written כתנות אור  with an aleph (light) and only after the sin the word ‘Or’ switched from an aleph to an ayin (leather). It is through the holy and righteous that the sin of Adam HaRishon can be fixed and corrected so that the word Or with an Ayin would have a greater effect and lighten up and shine as the Or. meaning light with an aleph.

Avraham Avinu started to “fix” the sin of Adam HaRishon .Thiswas the beginning of change that the ayin of Or should shine just like the aleph. Therefore, the Navi Yeshayahu wrote the word with an Ayin but it is pronounced as though it were an Aleph.

The Rabbis expound upon the concept that there were indeed three worlds: the world before the flood, the world after the flood and a world within the Teiva, the ark. The world as we know it today has been the same world since the time of Noach when he and his family emerged from the Teiva. Prior to the flood and surely throughout the year of the flood, the world was not the same world we have come to know today.  We also find a light of some kind in the ark. In this week’s parshas Noach, the Torah states in Bereishis 6:16 "צהר תעשה לתבה"  “Make an opening for daylight in the ark”. The simple meaning of Tzohar is the Hebrew version of the Aramaic word Zohar, meaning light. Rashi explains the word Tzohar through giving two explanations; the first discusses a window to let the light in and the second through the example of a jewel whose radiance shed brilliant light into the ark. In both these circumstances something needed to be done, action had to be taken to create such light. Darkness is not necessarily the absence of light; it is rather just intense darkness.. Light was created in the beginning of creation and later during the flood. Hashem saw the darkness of the world after the sin of Adam and Chava and again during the generation of Noach. In both circumstances light was used to change the destructive nature that enveloped the world.

I would like to take some poetic license regarding the light mentioned in both Bereishis within the ayin and aleph and later in Parshas Noach  the mechanism which Noach used to bring light were not necessarily physical. Rather, this light was a change in focus, revealing the wrong that had become part and parcel of society. There is no question in my mind that we, living in this challenging generation, are experiencing nothing less than the darkness that hovered over the world pre-Mabul time. This light is not physical in nature; it is a light distinguishing with clarity between truth and falsehood, goodness and evil, right and wrong. We, the Jewish people,  the Or Lagola, are the light unto the nations. It is our responsibility to light up the world with the basic principles of moral clarity and true social justice. Only with a clear and everlasting, unabated light will darkness no longer pervade the world. Only then will  the world return to the utopian society that was the world pre-mabul. Once we can master keeping the lights on, then we will merit the ultimate light to be witnessed and understood in the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu B’Meirah B’Yameinu! Amen!

Parshas Vayeilech / Yom Kippur                        9 Tishrei 5782

09/14/2021 08:41:56 PM

Sep14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09/02/2021 09:23:40 PM

Sep2

Parshas Nitzavim – Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

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

 

 

Rosh Hashana – Prayer of Desperation or Enthusiasm?

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - Who's Calling                         19 Elul 5781

08/27/2021 09:07:45 AM

Aug27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

08/20/2021 11:44:24 AM

Aug20

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

08/12/2021 07:34:30 PM

Aug12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Re'eh - Changing Human Condition     27 Av 5781

08/05/2021 03:12:19 PM

Aug5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos   

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

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

Parshas Eikev - Milk & Honey     21 Av 5781

07/30/2021 10:32:12 AM

Jul30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

07/22/2021 06:38:16 PM

Jul22

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

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

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

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

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

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

             
 
Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

07/15/2021 11:57:03 PM

Jul15

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

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

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

07/04/2021 02:50:12 PM

Jul4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07/02/2021 11:12:06 AM

Jul2

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Parshas Balak - To Insure Promptitude            15 Tammuz 5781

06/25/2021 11:16:36 AM

Jun25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06/18/2021 11:25:35 AM

Jun18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

06/11/2021 11:31:25 AM

Jun11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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

06/04/2021 12:25:55 PM

Jun4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, August 16 2022 19 Av 5782