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Parshas B'Haaloscha - The Clock Never Stops Ticking      20 Sivan 5780

06/12/2020 01:08:00 PM


One of my responsibilities as a Rabbi/clergyman is visiting people in hospital and care facilities. For me, it is an extra perk: first, of course, it is my duty, but on top of that I receive heavenly reward as well. To the perceptive mind and eye, there is something that hangs on the wall opposite each bed - a pull-off page calendar that marks the current day’s date, or at least a white board on the wall which has the day’s date and an update of other information for the patient. No one should ever need to go to a hospital, but for those who have had that experience, we understand how time seems to stand still. An incredibly sad Covid-19 story with a good ending tells about a Jewish man who was put onto a ventilator before Pesach and came out of it a few weeks after Pesach. One of the first things he said was, “When is the Seder?” He had completely lost all sense of time. I feel the same goes for the last three and a half months. I need to look at the calendar to know what day of the week it is as well as checking the current date and sometimes even what year we are in! One of our dedicated Daf Yomi attendees posted a meme about time, “I am not adding this year to my age; I did not use it!”

But besides a calendar or a watch, there are other indicators and reminders which serve to give us a sense of time. We associate people with time and time with people. When I try to remember something that happened in the past, I need an aid to remember. One method I use to calculate or to figure out when something took place is I think about an individual or family who were in the community or around me at that time. As my family and I close in on the completing of two dozen years at Beth Jacob, I look back at the many different people who have come and gone. As time goes by, the frames of time become clouded and blurred, sometimes making it difficult to remember when someone arrived or left the San Diego Jewish community.

San Diego, in general, tends to be a transient community. People come and people go. Perhaps this is the trend of our generation in all places throughout the world generally, but especially in the Jewish world. I often think what the community would look like if everyone who came just stayed and did not move away. To be fair and objective, I would have to look at the community as though no newcomers arrived at all. In other words, life is a balance of people and circumstances in all scenarios.

The idea of time standing still is not a new phenomenon for the Jewish people. We traveled in the desert for forty years with the same weather, the same food, the same clothing and the same living quarters. In fact, the Jews complained about many of those issues, especially the food and water supply. Even internal family squabbles erupted between Aharon and Miriam against their brother Moshe. Over this period there were religious issues and concerns of not being able to perform the Korban Pesach, resolving the issue with Pesach Sheini. I think this all sounds awfully familiar to us now with regard to our much shorter “shelter at home” order. With all that has transpired in our world over the last few months from the medical /health issues to the social unrest we are witnessing, I at least feel as though I am wandering through a fog of time. I do not have all the answers to the issues, but I can and will share an insight for each and everyone of us to think about concerning making the world a better place.

In this week’s parshas B’Haaloscha Moshe instructs Aharon to light the Menora. The Torah states in Bamidbar 8:2 "דבר אל אהרן ואמרת אליו, בהעלתך את הנרות אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות" “Speak to Aharon and say to him, ‘When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the Menorah”. Rashi explains that this act and command to Aharon was a gift to him and the Kohanim for future generations. But Rashi, describing the lighting writes, "שאתה מדליק ומטיב את הנרות" “for you should light them and then clean the lamps”. In his sefer Panim Yafos *Rav Pinchas Ben Zvi Hirsch Horowitz comments that those actions should be reversed: first clean the candlesticks and then light them. He explains that in reality this may be reversed, but in purpose the given order is correct. The first thing a person needs to do is get the light going, fire it up and then clear its path. Sometimes, just the light and the resulting flame will clean and clear out some of the debris. The lesson and message for us today is that we need to just light the candle and the menorah. That light will, in turn, reflect, thereby lighting up the other things around it. More importantly, once a fire is lit and the candle burns, the light that it gives off is timeless. The long -lasting effects of the light which, of course, is brought through the learning of Torah and fulfilling the mitzvos, will continue to shine, clearing away the debris, opening the path of justice and purity. Each and every one of us should strive to light up our own lives, to clear the path, to clean up that which is around us, creating clarity of light for the Jewish people and the world that we live in.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*HOROWITZ, Pinchas Ben Ẓvi Hirsch Ha-Levi (1730–1805), German rabbi. Horowitz was born in Czortkow, Poland, where his father was rabbi. He studied first under his father and then under his two brothers, Nachum (introduction to the Shevet Aḥim) and Shmuel Shmelke *Horowitz, later rabbi of Nikolsburg. During that period the two brothers were attracted to the circle of *Dov Baer of Mezhirech. Rav Pinchas Horowitz visited Dov Baer, first in Mezhirech and then in Rovno. As a result of these visits, he made the acquaintance of *Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founder of *Chabad Ḥasidism.


Rav Horowitz was rabbi at first of Witkowo, Poland and then of Lachowicze (1764). In 1771 he accepted a call to the rabbinate of Frankfurt, a post he held until his death. During his later years he was frequently ill and eventually became totally blind. Horowitz was held in the highest esteem by the rabbis and scholars of Frankfurt. Particularly noteworthy was the cordial relationship which existed between Rav Horowitz and Nathan Maas, Av (father) of the Bet Din of Frankfurt and author of the Binyan Shelomo. Rav Horowitz maintained a close and friendly relationship with Nathan *Adler, although he opposed him in certain matters and later was one of the signatories to the 1779 proclamation signed by the leaders and rabbis of the community against Adler because of his cḥasidic leanings. His congregants also admired Horowitz because of his saintliness and integrity. On one occasion Rav Horowitz gave assistance to a Catholic priest who was in distress. Horowitz had a private *minyan where he followed the Sephardi rite, whereas the traditional Ashkenazi rite of Frankfurt was otherwise followed.


Horowitz vigorously opposed the *Haskalah movement. On the eve of the new moon of Tammuz 1782 he preached a powerful sermon (known as Tokhaḥat Musar, "ethical rebuke") against Mendelssohn's German translation of the Pentateuch and its commentary, the Be'ur (Biur). In this sermon, regarded as the first public statement reflecting fierce opposition to the Haskalah, Horowitz referred to the Biur as a work "which resuscitated heretical works in scoffing at the words of our sages." The opinion has been expressed that his opposition to the translation was directed chiefly against the special system of translation and the "dogmatic tone" of the commentary and not against the translation itself. It should be noted that despite his polemics against the aims of the Haskalah movement, he did not refuse to give his approbation to the German translation of the festival prayer book of Wolf *Heidenheim. In 1795. Rav Horowitz issued a ban on the proposed establishment of a teaching institute in Frankfurt, fearing that it would result in a diminution of the study of religious subjects, but under pressure from the civic authorities, he was compelled to rescind the ban. On the other hand, he was keenly focused on the contemporary problems of the community and participated actively in the concern of the communal council to create a harmonious relationship with the government Conspicuous among his prominent pupils was Moses *Sofer, author of the Chasam Sofer, who revered Rav Horowitz for his talmudic genius and his halakhic authority. He stated that despite Horowitz' attraction to Chasidism, he was averse to giving expression to cḥasidic or kabbalistic ideas. In the view of many scholars, the whole tradition of Horowitz' Chasidism is open to doubt.


The most important of Horowitz' works, on which his fame chiefly rests, is the Sefer Hafla'ah, in three parts: pt. 1, Sefer Ketubbah (Offenbach, 1787), consists of halakhic and aggadic novellae on tractate Ketubbot with an appendix entitled Shevet Aḥim on the Shulḥan Arukh Even ha-Ezer, laws of ketubbah chapters 66–118; pt. 2, Sefer ha-Makneh (ibid., 1801), to tractate Kiddushin and to Even ha-Ezer, 26–45. Horowitz wrote a homiletical introduction to these parts entitled Pitḥa Ze'ira. The Hafla'ah to tractate Berakhot and on the laws of meat and milk (1895) and on various tractates (3 vols., 1900) were published posthumously. Among his other works the best known is part 3 of Sefer Hafla'ah, his commentary to the Pentateuch, Panim Yafot (Ostrog, 1824), published by Ephraim Zalman *Margulies. That the 1876 Warsaw edition is still in print is evidence of the continued popularity of this work. In this commentary pilpulistic halakhic expositions are combined with kabbalistic and ḥasidic elements. He also wrote Shevet Aḥim in two parts; pt. 1 Netivot le-Shabbat, a commentary to Even ha-Ezer 1–23 (1838), pt. 2 Givat Pinḥas, 83 responsa (1838). A commentary to Psalms entitled Panim Yafot, collected from his various works was published by Pincḥas Finkelstein (1924). Various explanations by him of scriptural verses are found scattered in the works of his contemporaries and pupils. A commentary on the Passover Haggadah appeared in 1860 (reprinted in Jerusalem, 1994). On the occasion of the coronation ceremonies of the emperors Leopold ii and Francis ii in the years 1790/92 he compiled special prayers which were issued with German translations.

Parshas Nasso - The Blessings We All Wait For     12 Sivan 5780

06/12/2020 01:04:29 PM


Amazingly enough, we just concluded our second of the “Shalosh Regalim,” the three pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos while davening at home in isolation. Who would ever have thought, who could ever have imagined such a bizarre situation which has temporarily paralyzed the entire world , impacting the Jewish people in such a devastating manner? Despite all the difficulties and challenges of this pandemic, we Jewish people have the halachik protocols needed to meet every situation. Many aspects of Jewish life have been affected, and many parts of Tefillah need to be modified for personal, private prayer in place of communal prayer consisting of a minyan of ten. I have heard rabbis speak about Hallel, Yizkor, the Megilos of Shir HaShirim and Rus. The detailed laws of Chometz and Matzah, who is obligated and who is not. I’ve listened to and studied the relevant customs of the Omer down to the shortage crisis of Cholov Yisroel cream cheese in the New York metropolitan area needed to make cheesecake for Shavuos! One topic which slipped beneath my radar if not all the Jewish people, is that of Birkas Kohanim, the Priestly blessings.

To be perfectly honest, there was a brief moment of attention Birkas Kohanim received in Israel. On Chol HaMoed Sukkos and Pesach there is one day selected for ALL Kohanim to recite Birkas Kohanim altogether. There were some images sent around contrasting the throng of Kohanim last year as compared to a few spread-out Kohanim seen at the Kotel this year. True, in Israel everyone (both Ashkenazim and Sephardim) “Duchans” (the platform) every day of the year, while outside of Israel Sephardim continue this practice but Ashkenazim limit these blessings to the festivals. So far, between Pesach and Shavuos, we have missed out on Birkas Kohanim six times! These unique, special words are directly from the Torah and are always read aloud around the holiday of Shavuos. The question is why?

In this week’s Parshas Nasso the Torah lists the Priestly Blessing or priestly benediction ברכת כהנים. This blessing is also known in rabbinic literature as ‘raising of the hands’ -נשיאת כפים or rising to the platform - עליה לדוכן. For many, the word ‘Dukhanen’ is used. This is Yiddish for the Hebrew word Dukhan – platform –because the blessing is given from a raised platform. This prayer is recited by Kohanim who are descendants of Aharon. The text of the Bracha is found in Bamidbar 6:23–27. "דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר, כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם. יברכך ה' וישמרך. יאר ה' פניו אליך ויחונך. ישא ה' פניו אליך וישם לך שלום." “Speak to Aharon and his sons saying: This is how you must bless the Israelites. Say to them: ‘May God bless you and keep watch over you. May God make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace. May God direct His providence toward you and grant you peace.” According to the Torah, Aharon blessed the people and Hashem promised that "I will place my name on their hands" (the Kohanim's hands) "and bless them" (the Jews receiving the blessing). Chaza”l, the Sages, stressed that although the Kohanim are the ones carrying out the blessing, it is neither the Kohanin nor the ceremonial practice of raising their hands that results in the blessing; it is God's desire that His blessing should be symbolized and communicated through the raised hands of the Kohanim. The Midrash on the passuk in Bamidbar 6:25: “May God make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace” dissects the verse and explains it as follows: “May Hashem’s presence enlighten you” refers to opening one’s eyes and heart to Torah. The words “grant you grace” is explained by Rebbi Chiya HaGadol that Hashem should camp within us. The question is what do these two ideas of opening our eyes to Torah and granting grace have to do with each other? HaRav Yehuda ben Yosef Peretz in his sefer ‘Perach Levanon’ (Berlin 1712) explains that the angels protested that Hashem should give of His countenance to the heavens and the Torah should be given to them. The reasoning, they argued, was the law of ‘Bar Matzra’, Aramaic for border or boundary. (Note: There are variant ways as to how this word is pronounced, including mitzra or metzra. I chose what seems the most common.) A “bar matzra” is someone who shares a boundary with someone else. In halachah, a bar matzra is awarded certain rights in relation to the property that abuts the common border. Namely, if someone wants to sell his field, his direct neighbor has first rights of refusal to purchase it in order to make his own land contiguous. Since the angels were physically closer to God and the Torah when it was in heaven before it was given, they requested to have the Torah. Therefore, to negate their claim,Hashem took His presence and brought it close to us, the Jewish people. And so, here we see Hashem’s great kindness: in the first part of the passuk Hashem lightens us up with the Torah and perhaps the Malachim, the angels, have a right to their claim of Bar Matzra. However, along comes the second half of Veechuneka stating that Hashem will make His presence be with us - the law of Bar Matzra will be with us!

We are clearly living through a time of darkness – we tend to ‘see’ but cannot truly comprehend what we are trying to focus through. The events that we have been and continue to live through are both eerie and downright frightening. There is nothing conclusive, nothing clear with regard to the myriad of questions surrounding Covid-19. The unrest and lack of discipline in our country and throughout the world has us all wondering if we are progressing, positively moving forward, or regressing to the times of old. I don’t believe any one person has a clear, concise, or even close-to-perfect answer that will as yet begin to lay a foundation towards some satisfactory solution for assuaging these fears of all the unknowns and ramifications concerning this challenging time. But, as caring and observant Jews, we know there is one thing in life that does give us clarity and a ray of hope towards the future - and that is the Torah.

Our duty in the middle section of the Kohanim’s Bracha is to allow the light of Torah to shine, to literally light up the path of life for us. But this, however, is predicated upon the latter half of the Bracha – to allow Hashem to reside within ourselves, our family, and our community, to welcome Hashem to become a true part of our daily lives. We look forward to earning the love of Hashem to be with us and have the Torah near to us so we can all be the recipients of the Birkas Kohanim in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, witnessing the rebuilding of the third Beis HaMikdash speedily in our day.

Parshas Bamidbar - Re-Opening Our World   27 Iyar 5780

06/12/2020 01:00:54 PM


Americans are tuned in every day and night waiting to find out when their locale will begin or continue to the next phase of opening for business, pleasure, and religious activity from Covid-19. It is a delicate balance of knowing when to start the integration of society while keeping the virus at bay and the incident rate low. Many people are frustrated with the slow process, some feeling it is not necessary while others feel it is too quick. I am not a scientist, but what Rabbis do is to search for precedent in forming opinions and practice. Perhaps the following excerpt from the official NASA website can shed some light on our current situation. Obviously, we are dealing with two completely different ideas, nevertheless the message may be the same.

Spacecraft re-entry is tricky business for several reasons. When an object enters the Earth's atmosphere, it experiences a few forces, including gravity and drag. Gravity will naturally pull an object back to earth. But gravity alone would cause the object to fall dangerously fast. Luckily, the Earth's atmosphere contains particles of air. As the object falls, it hits and rubs against these particles, creating friction. This friction causes the object to experience drag, or air resistance, which slows the object down to a safer entry speed. This friction is a mixed blessing, however. Although it causes drag, it also causes intense heat. Specifically, shuttles face intense temperatures of about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1649 degrees Celsius). Blunt-body design helps alleviate the heat problem. When an object – with a blunt-shaped surface facing down -- comes back to Earth, the blunt shape creates a shock wave in front of the vehicle. That shock wave keeps the heat at a distance from the object. At the same time, the blunt shape also slows the object's fall. The Apollo program, which moved several manned ships back and forth from space during the 1960s and 1970s, coated the command module with special ablative material that burned up upon re-entry, absorbing heat. We see the difficulty and complexity of something moving from one atmosphere to another. I believe our transition from stay-at-home command to exploration of malls, shops, restaurants, Shuls and the like is similar in nature. The devastating effects of a space shuttle upon its return from outer space to Earth travelling too fast or too slow will be catastrophic. The pace, speed, and exact entry point are crucial elements of a successful mission. This is the challenge we face while trying to return to our old atmosphere.

The Torah gives us this perspective from the namesake of the new Chumash we begin with this week in Bamidbar. The first Parsha is named as the book itself in the very first passuk. In Bamidbar 1:1 the Torah states: "וידבר ה אל משה במדבר סיני,, “And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai”. The Midbar, the desert, where the Torah was given teaches us many lessons from humility to the fact that anyone can embrace the Torah as a way of life. The word Midbar/desert can be understood in at least two ways. The first, is the general definition of a dry, barren area of land, especially one covered with sand, that is characteristically desolate, waterless, and without vegetation. The second is two Hebrew words הדרכה והנהגה Guidance/training/direction and conduct/behavior. I would like to suggest an integration of these two different understandings of the term “Midbar/Desert. The Gemara Sanhedrin 8b explains through the passuk in Tehillim 47:4 that if we attain good guidance and conduct ourselves properly, then the desert will be a place where we can flourish despite its scarce resources. The Torah, given in the harshness of the desert in spite of its apparent shortcomings, demonstrates that one can become great in such an atmosphere. But, if we do not act properly, then it will be a desolate place of destruction where there can be no life.

Transitioning from one atmosphere to the next is not solely dependent upon each atmosphere but rather how we guide and maneuver from one to the next. All in all, people are people, everyone has his or her opinion and philosophy. We, as the Jewish people, can pray and ask Hashem to imbue the leadership, both secular and religious, to have the wisdom and insight in making the transition safe and healthy. Re-entering from the stay-at-home atmosphere to the spiritual atmosphere of Shul life should be a careful process - not too fast and not too slow. It needs to be carefully, perfectly timed under the best conditions.

Parshas Behar/Bechukosai - Covid-19: A Blessing or a Curse?    21 Iyyar 5780

05/15/2020 12:31:58 PM


Give or take a few weeks, the Western World is approaching a quarter of a year now either in quarantine, self-quarantine, or stay-at-home orders! It is reported that throughout these weeks, the number one most-often mentioned word is Zoom. Collectively, we have experienced just about every life experience through the screens of our devices, be it a computer, tablet, or cellphone. We are yet to have data on what the PTSD will have regarding this time period of history.

Thanks to the technology of Zoom, we have all witnessed and been a part of every life cycle and social gathering possible, including weddings, funerals, bar-mitzvahs, shiva/condolence calls, brisim, baby naming, davening, classes, school, board meetings, social visits, family get togethers, lectures and many more. To sum it all up, THIS IS NOT NORMAL! Although I try to encourage everyone to maintain a semblance of their daily routine and schedule, I realize it has many drawbacks. We are trying, or at least pretending, to play and live the game of life in a real (or surreal) way under false circumstances. To make believe and play for short periods of time and then to revert back to reality is a healthy experience. To “get away” for the moment is rehabilitating, but not when it becomes a replacement the real game itself.

Whatever we call this Covid-19, whether it be a plague, an illness, or something similar, it would categorically meet the requirements of a curse. Albeit, in every curse there is a blessing, yet at this time of human loss, pain, and suffering, it is difficult to see the blessing in disguise. We, who must have deep faith, know that “everything is for the best” and again, as difficult to understand or even to say those words ,each and every one of us should recognize this. Nevertheless, we are all clearly able to see, feel, hear about the curse and havoc that has impacted our lives and the world at large. Nevertheless, we, the Jewish people, look for inspiration or a bright spot in order to more clearly see the end of something bad and the beginning of something good. Well, hopefully we are at this turning point as this coming week’s Torah reading of Parshios Behar and Bechukosai explains. Parshas Bechukosai is synonymous with the Tochacha, the public rebuke of the Jewish people , resulting in the horrific description of the resulting harsh penalties. The timing of this reading is highlighted in the Talmud.

The Gemara Megilla 31b teaches us that Ezra established for the Jewish people that we read the Klalos/ Curses of Toras Kohanim (the book of Vayikra) before Atzeres/Shavuos and again in Mishneh Torah (the book of Devarim) before Rosh Hashana. The Talmud asks: “Why do we read these portions prior to Shavuos and again prior to Rosh Hashana? Abayei and some other commentators report, as stated by Reish Lakish, so that we are given the vision and strength to end the year and its curses”. This means that as the year concludes, if there were any kind of evil decree or curse on the world, the Jewish people, or any one individual, it should be completed and perhaps fulfilled with the going out of that calendar year. The Gemara, however, is not satisfied. One could understand this logic by reading the Tochacha/Rebuke from Parshas Ki Savo a week or so before Rosh Hashana because that IS the end of the year. But why must we read the Tochacha of Parshas Bechukosai prior to Shavuos? Is Shavuos considered the new year? The Gemara answers…yes! The Mishna in Rosh Hashana states that fruits of the land are judged on Shavuos, thereby making Shavuos a new year. The Rambam in Hilchos Tefilla 13:2 and the Mogen Avraham Siman 428:4 and others mention the importance of reading Bechukosai before Shavuos. But perhaps, more importantly, is that which is somewhat overlooked in Bechukosai. Bechukosai is automatically associated with the curses, but there are Brachos in the beginning of Bechukosai which are overlooked, somewhat casually glanced over without emphasis.

The significance of the Brachos/blessings preceding the curses is great. Chazal taught the concept that Hashem creates the Refuah/healing before the Makkah/wound. There is no doubt in my mind that the refuah - the cure of this virus - is here in the world, it only takes Hashem’s allowance for us to discover it. The Bracha for this time in the world predated the devastation of the virus and we should be zocheh , meriting to see the refuah and the blessings that are here with us, yet to be received. Blessings will come only after we deserve them. Therefore, each and every one of us needs to do a little self-introspection, looking inward with keen attention and honest deliberation to our own lives. We need to prepare and go through the transition through doing Teshuva/repenting to greet the new year after Shavuos that will, with the grace of Hashem, bring the end of the curse and the beginning of a new year of blessing.

Parshas Emor - Living in our Own World          14 Iyyar 5780

05/08/2020 05:20:23 PM


During the lockdown we encourage each other to make the best of the situation that we are going through now. Whether it has been using our time wisely for a better davening, speaking and connecting more deeply to our parents, children, and spouses, learning some area of Torah or following a secular pursuit upon which we don’t typically focus, are all important and invaluable. Speaking for myself (and I am sure others as well), I try to maintain the ordinary daily schedule of events while working within this new framework. Current studies and emerging theories are coming out regarding the negative impact and toll the quarantine continues to take on our brains and bodies. At the very beginning of the mandatory stay-at-home order, I suggested among many ideas, the importance of exercise. Exercise keeps our minds sharp and our bodies in shape and has an overall positive effect on our mood and attitude.

In general, I try to use my time wisely by planning and scheduling similar events together and go to places that are close to each other. The best is combining two tasks or chores at the same time. In keeping up with and maintaining a regular schedule, I usually drive around the neighborhood and check the Eruv on Thursdays. When the Eruv was established, it was recommended that at least once a year an inspection should be done on foot. I decided to combine the routine of checking the Eruv and exercising in one united task. If anyone is curious, the Eruv is four and a half miles in circumference; it normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes to check the Eruv, based upon traffic conditions. It takes a little longer by foot. But, often in life there is an additional benefit to the tasks being fulfilled. Besides the exercise and Eruv being inspected, I was the opportunity to actually see and greet people who typically whiz by and notice certain things about the area that typically go unnoticed. I would like to share just two of my observations.

The first is the social courtesy and closeness that exists from the people who are running, jogging or only plain walking. Many but not all pedestrians are wearing masks. Therefore, as a courtesy when passing someone, there is an automatic distancing to separate one from the other, but this distance-separating comes along with a little wave or greeting to express the idea of “don’t take it personally”. The second and more profound observation is the array of foliage that exists. As I slowed down and walked along Collwood Boulevard, I began to take notice of how many kinds of grasses, plants, shrubs, small trees, and the like grow on the mountain side of Collwood. There are plants that are clearly dead or dormant and others that are just beginning to come to life. I wondered to myself while viewing the assortment of different sizes, colors, and peculiarities how they exist in such close quarters. They remain together in the day and the night, in the cold and in the heat and when it is dry or even wet. When a car whizzes by, they all feel the wind, and all move together in the same direction. Although each variety of vegetation is created uniquely and differently, they nevertheless can co-exist as if it were among its own kind.

To me this is reminiscent of an entire universe from different parts remaining together under all kinds of conditions. True, these species do not necessarily grow in every part and place in the world, but in every place, there are specific plants and vegetation unique to that region. This is a microcosm of humans living on Earth; groups of certain people tend to congregate and live in specific areas. Originally, people remained in the locale where they were born, but over the last two centuries migration has peaked, and the world is a mix of different cultures, religions, and the like. Our challenge is to take the time to consider the vegetation, which, at least to my eyes, exist in peace and harmony. This remarkable setting is found none other than in the Torah HaKedosha!

In this week’s Parshas Emor the Torah speaks of the Moadim, the festivals of the Jewish calendar year. The Moadim have a double reference, a seasonal one and an historical one. With regards to the first, the festivals are connected with the season of the year as well with the state of development of the products of the soil. On a philosophical level, the meaning of Moadim is the “Times for Meeting” of the Bnei Yisrael to Hashem; they should be fixed and sanctified. More specifically, the cycle begins with Shabbos and Pesach and concludes with Sukkos. The Mitzvos of Sukkos are listed at the end of the Parsha. The Torah states in Vayikra 23:40 "ולקחתם לכם ביום הראשון פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ עבות וערבי נחל..." “On the first day, you must take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree, an unopened palm frond, myrtle branches, and willows [that grow near] the brook”. The last of the four species that represent all the different kinds of Jews (combination of Torah and Mitzvos or lack thereof) is the willow. The Arava/willow has neither taste nor smell, contrasting to no Torah or Mitzvos, the least desirable of Jewish character. Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch quotes the Yalkut Shimoni saying: God says, none may be lost on account of their failing, but additionally God teaches to join them together in one combined union so that the failings of one are balanced by the perfection of the other.

Rav Hirsch, in his masterful way of seeing the world, adds that according to their geographical dispersion the four Lulav-plants could also be representative of the plant world. The date palm belongs exclusively to the torrid zone, citrus plants to countries of lesser heat, myrtle is a plant of the temperate zone, and willows grow in colder climates. With all of them and with each one of them, we nevertheless must rejoice, find joy in the Presence of God.

We, today, find ourselves - the Jewish people and the world at large - collectively representatives of God’s world to come together just as the plant and fruit life around us. We bear witness to the unfortunate passing away of thousands of people from this virus and yet children are also being born. The isolation of individuals is countered by the chessed and kindness offered and accepted, bringing people closer to each other. On a whole, I feel a stronger sense of humanity permeating through the streets of the world, creating a tangible calm and peace or Shalom among mankind. Hashem always offers us a choice: to change for the better on our own, or to have our hand forced. Unfortunately, this experience has come through the latter.

We wish comfort to those who lost loved ones and wish health to those suffering physical and mental illness. May it be our will to learn from these deep, harsh, and difficult circumstances to bring a complete peace to the world and experience the ultimate redemption.

Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim - We Are All Affected Together       7 Iyyar 5780

05/08/2020 05:17:47 PM


Here, in our quarantine quarters, we find ourselves saying, “Remember when we were able to do… [fill in as appropriate]”? Most people are driving less without going to school, work or recreation. With all that is going on, there are individuals who are going to work, and for them the roads are open, experiencing extraordinarily little traffic . As a result, they are driving a little faster on the roads, especially the freeways. Who among you remember speeding along the 805, the 15, the 405, or the 8 and out of the blue there was a slowdown of the traffic flow. We always hope that the cause is from a stalled car and not, Heaven forbid ,an accident. Sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised when the slowdown just breaks up for no apparent reason, at least that we can see.

In my assessment, accidents, stalled cars, and the like are considered acts of God beyond the natural control of life. But then there is a man-made slow down created by the speeders, and that is when the CHP (California Highway Patrol)speed up ahead of the traffic and swerve from side to side at a slower speed so that the flow of traffic slows down. It is very frustrating, especially when your location is far back and you have no way of knowing the reason for the slowdown. Other times we find ourselves in the first few rows of cars and are able to see why the slowdown is occurring, thanks to the CHP swerving to control the speed. As we are in the process of going somewhere, we feel a great sense of frustration and aggravation as to how this slow down directly affects the timing of our commute. Generally speaking, we are in a rush to get somewhere and now find ourselves delayed, arriving late for this appointment and subsequent meetings. This is only our immediate gut reaction which has nothing to do with any rational thinking. Subconsciously, we understand that this is for our own benefit. Even though none of us believes that speeding will get us into some trouble, or even worse, God forbid, into an accident, the slow down must be for the “other car” and not for me. Nevertheless, deep down we should understand that this slowdown is for the health and safety of ALL of us, whether we care to admit it or not.

Often in life we slow down, but sometimes it is self-instructed while at other times it is an act from above. Usually when we slow down it includes an inner circle of people in our lives, including family members, co-workers and community. Rarely does our slowing down impact the entire population as this virus has affected everyone, without exception, causing an exhaustive slowdown of society across the globe. Here, too, on the surface our first gut reaction is ,”I need to do x,y, and z and I can not do it now.” Initially we feel keen and deep frustration which hopefully for most of us subsides somewhat, settling down to a more rational reasoning of why this quarantine, isolation, and resulting slow-down was, indeed, necessary for our own safety and wellbeing.

We may be driving at the back of the slowdown and never know what caused it. Right now, however, we are in the front row of cars watching the CHP swerving and slowing us down, sending a message that is louder and clearer than screeching tires or worse, the grinding of metal to metal. Sit back, slow down, take in the scenery of family, our own personal relationship with HaKadosh Boruch Hu.

What did, or what will we do during this slowdown? What should we be focusing on - ourselves? others? or maybe both? As we well know, the Torah is not just a set of laws with rules and regulations ; it is a guide for life in all situations. This situation is no different. We look to the Torah for some direction during these challenging times. The Torah in this week’s Parshios of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim states in Vayikra 19:18 "לא תקם ולא תטר את בני , כמוך, אני ה' "עמך ואהבת לרעך “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as [you love] yourself. I am God”. The Sadigerer Rabbe, Reb Avraham Yakov, explains the last two ideas of the verse as inextricable, one from the other. Most commentaries focus on the first part, which Rebbi Akiva said is a Klal Gadol BaTorah, a great rule of the Torah - to love your neighbor like yourself. Upon further scrutiny, the words ‘Ani Hashem’ are added on to many of the Mitzvos between man and man ,and here is no exception. In fact, not only is it not an exception but perhaps here it is the most necessary. Rabbi Akiva explains that the same way a person acts and treats his fellow Jew, I am Hashem. “I, too, “ says Hashem, “will treat and act with you.” Perhaps Hashem is not pleased with not only how Jews are treating their fellow Jews ,but Rei’Acha ,beyond a Jew, but to all humankind. Be it non-Jew to non-Jew, Jew to Jew or Jew to non-Jew and non-Jew to Jew, we ALL are in this slow-down together. God gave the world time to contemplate, deliberate, ponder and reflect upon our relationships with the entire world. Looking out of our homes and walking outside at a safe distance should ultimately bring us closer together. Let us not think of those things that separate or divide us, but rather at those things which bring us closer together, unifying the world to remember the ‘Ani Hashem’ of our existence.

One of the most important things to remember is to understand when the traffic finally breaks up and we start life in the fast lane again, that we do not forget the reason we had to slow down. Let us not forget to take all the treasured and meaningful videos, stories and anecdotes we have learned during this slowdown and always keep the safety and health of our physical and spiritual lives first and foremost in our minds.

Parshas Tazria/Metzora - The Mask: Hiding or Preventing        30 Nissan 5780

05/08/2020 05:15:58 PM


Parshas Tazria/Metzora - The Mask: Hiding or Preventing

Human beings need social interaction to exist on many levels: personal relationships, including family and friends and professional, including business and academic interactions, and so forth.. We are now bearing witness to the difficulties and challenges related to Covid-19 that have struck people throughout the world. My world has also been tainted in many ways, but I will highlight two of them that are distant yet related.

The world of ZOOM and other meeting/teaching platforms have exploded to meet the needs of social interaction, continuation of business meetings and teaching from pre-school to graduate programs. We, too, at Beth Jacob have joined this world in order to maintain a virtual Shul for davening, learning, and disseminating information to members and to the outlying Jewish community. As is true regarding everything in life, nothing is perfect, and ZOOM, which is great, gives each individual participant options to mute oneself and to turn off the video, leaving a black screen with just a name identifying the person. Even then, a person can “change” the name, using an alias or the name or word of a funny or not so funny character. To me, the shutting down of the video camera decreases and almost eliminates the connection that we so desire and cherish. The ability to see a person’s face allows for a meaningful ‘connection’ to each participant. Chaza”l (the Rabbis of blessed memory) have stated that there is no comparison between hearing and seeing the face of a person. The Kabbalists explain the Hebrew word for face is panim which can also be translated as inward. A person’s face reflects what is inside of that individual’s being; by looking at someone’s face we are able to view the essence of that person. Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to see Hashem panim el panim, face to face. The desire was not to see what God looks like (because Hashem is not a physical being) but rather to see the essence of What Hashem is. This gift that Hashem has instilled within human beings, , the gift of seeing/reading the face of those with whom we are communicating, is now minimized by our situation to make do with something that compromises the natural way.

The second observation relates to the few times I’ve ventured out of the house to go shopping. Many concerned and responsible citizens - including myself - now wear masks to avoid a potential transmission of Covid-19 from person to person. The expression a person has on his/her face and particularly the expressions emitted by with the mouth speaks volumes. If you do not believe me, just take a look at how many emoji faces there are on your phone. While the expression the eyes are the entrance way to the soul and the eyes definitely give a direction as to an individual’s point-of-view, it is the mouth that gives support to the entire face. The mouth controls the description of the face, shaping the message to transmit happiness, sorrow, anger, excitement, etc. We communicate not only by speaking, or through use of sign language, but also through facial and mouthing expressions. I, and I’m sure many of you, know how to communicate with one’s mouth without emitting a single sound.

Rav Shimshon Pincus ZT”L once told me an interesting idea about the Jewish people during the years of wandering in the desert. If the Jewish people had everything, that they needed during the forty year journey through the Sinai desert, there obviously was no need for the Mitzva of Tzedaka. Yet, we are lead to believe that the utopian society of the generation of the Jews in the desert fulfilled all of the mitzvos (so to speak). So, how did they perform the Mitzva of Tzedaka/righteousness? Rav Pincus responded with a smile, exactly how a Jew would smile at a fellow Jew and the other reciprocated and smiled back. The acknowledgment and recognition a person gives to someone else makes the other feel good, as if he or she were receiving something warm, something to be cherished. A smile is contagious; an outgoing smile is reflected upon the recipient’s face, shining back to the person who sent it. In short, smiles given are reflections of the sender. Nowadays, when I venture out to the grocery store, I am only able to see another’s eyes and eyes alone cannot be read. It is the combination of eyes with the mouth which sends the messages, but when the mouth is covered, we are prevented from adequately being able to convey or receive such nonverbal messages. As a Jew, I try to show courtesy and pleasantness to those around me, Jew and gentile alike. While I am not silenced by wearing a mask, I find it very difficult to transmit a friendly feeling to another human being. Additionally, I tend to use the ability to read someone’s mouth if the person appears to be looking at me in an adversarial way. I raise my defenses in case I deem the person a threat. Once again, I am blinded by the fact that masks cover up mouths, causing a complete standstill. These and all issues are discussed in the Torah.

In this week’s Torah portion Tazria/Metzora we read about the laws on Tzoraas/leprosy and the Metzora, the leper himself. The Mechilta lists ten different reasons or sins why a person would develop Tzoraas and end up being quarantined outside the camp of the Jewish people. The number one or most famous reason was the speaking of Loshon Hora. This is a direct result of someone’s wrongful speech and the misuse of the gift of the mouth, forcing a person to ‘cover’ that mouth and face by being sent away and not being a part of Am Yisroel. If one were to analyze all of the other reasons the Mechilta lists, one would be able to connect and associate those sins that stem from the mouth to the disposition of the total face.

These are two reflections happening on a regular basis during these trying times of social distancing. So often, we read sections of the Torah that we think are outdated and do not apply to us in our time. One obvious example is Tzoraas, the spiritual leprosy that we do not see and therefore cannot check today. Nevertheless, the message, the Mitzva, and the relevance of Tzoraas is alive and well today in our midst, particularly as we ‘protect’ ourselves by wearing a mask. Perhaps the wearing of a mask today or using a ZOOM screen when interacting is not just hiding or preventing the spreading of a virus. I would say it’s the message that we may be guilty as well of the sins that lead to Tzoraas; the result of wearing a mask and observing social distancing is to give us time to reflect that just maybe we may have Tzoraas. The actual physical affliction does not appear, but the effect of it may be making its way inside through a hidden, masked cover-up preventing us from truly ‘seeing’ each other.

May we all have the ability during this time of isolation to think and reflect upon our actions that may have led us to living this type of existence. If we think about this and consider ourselves to possibly be guilty of some of the reasons Tzoraas comes about, then we should do Teshuva. If and when we repent and learn from our actions and speech, we should be Zocheh and merit to see the end of the virus and its devastation and begin to rebuild our world as the Ribbono Shel Olam would want to see us achieve.

Parshas Shmini - Resetting the World to a Higher Plane    23 Nissan 5780

05/08/2020 05:14:14 PM


It has been a few weeks since my last weekly parsha message. The reason is twofold: my entire schedule, focus and structure of the day was thrown off by the world dealing with the coronavirus. The second is I felt so much has been written and spoken about that I felt I had little new to add to the already voluminous audio and video material flooding our computers and cell phones. Nevertheless, I felt that for me personally, I need to write something so as to keep the lines of communication open between you, my readers, and me.

To say the least a lot has happened over the past six weeks. The world is no longer the same place it was such a short yet long time ago, and we are not near finished before we begin to see the changes yet to come. We are in a similar situation to the time Noach and his family were in the ark. Noach and his family saw a world before, during and after the flood. So too, we knew what the world looked like before what we are currently living through, and, with Hashem’s help we should all remain healthy and those who are ill should have a Refuah Sheleima to see the world in the aftermath of Covid-19. God sent a powerful message to the world with the flood which was at the brink of never recovering, short of Noach and his family. Only those who lived to see the future are able to appreciate life as it was, is, and will be. I apologize in advance if what you about to read sounds similar to something else you’ve already heard, but I personally have not seen or read this twist on the current Matzav/situation.

Hashem created the world for us to live in a physical place while reaching ever higher for a spiritual existence. In the beginning there was natural Gashmiyus/physical beauty and pleasure. But it was there to be viewed in a natural and simple way. I surmise that Hashem felt the balance required to maintain a spiritual feeling in that kind of physical world would be optimum. As the world continues to progress, the level and intensity of this physical world increases, putting ever-greater pressure on mankind to connect to Hashem. This idea is not limited to the Jewish people; it is intended for all humankind. Hashem promised never to bring a Mabul/flood onto the world again, but we should all realize that God has a vast arsenal of the most minute microorganisms to send the most powerful messages. Perhaps the world was growing too distant from the spiritual connection and Hashem decided to awaken the world, bringing it back a number of centuries to a time when we return to our core selves.

Across the globe, cultures, religions, people of all colors and sizes have been affected. Aviation has come to a screeching halt. People have no means for travel – not by air, auto, train or even by foot without feeling the effects of the new situation. One can read articles and view videos animals roaming around in desolated areas which were only weeks ago densely populated by humans. I haven’t seen any crime statistics, but I would bet that overall crime is down. No Jew will ever forget the Pesach which we have just concluded. Some day, when we tell our children and grandchildren of this pandemic descending upon us, synchronized with the celebration of Pesach, future generations will not believe us. We are living through eerily strange, challenging times and I’m sure everyone can add to this list of strange, seemingly supernatural events and challenges.

We, the Jewish people, not only recognize the natural state of the world but that which is above the natural state. The Torah emphasizes something called L’Maalah MiDerech HaTevah - something which is above the natural law of the world. Kedusha or sanctity is something intangible that is not physical but even beyond the natural state of being. The notion how the world was created in seven days represents the natural order of the world, while anything that is above nature lies closer to Hashem. The number eight represents anything above nature, like a boy receiving a Bris on the eighth day, reaching a higher level after the seven natural days of the world. This idea is highlighted in a number of places in the Torah and Chazal.

In this week’s Parshas Shmini the Torah recognizes this transition between the seven natural, mundane days to the spiritual level of the eighth day. The Torah states in Vayikra 9:1 "ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרן ולבניו ולזקני ישראל" : “On the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon, his sons, and the elders of Israel”. This was the eighth day after seven days that the Kohanim were taught the service by Moshe as was seen only a few verses before this in Vayikra 8:33. “Do not leave the entrance of the Communion Tent for seven days, until your period of inauguration is complete. This is because your installation ceremony shall last for seven days. This seven -day period began the twenty-third of Adar and concluded on the thirtieth of Adar. The following day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first of the month when the Mishkan was established and the business of the Tabernacle was now up and running. This was the day that Hashem’s presence would occupy the Mishkan. The spiritual existence of Hashem would, if you could say, come down and be felt in the physical realm. The Rabbis explain the concept of ‘Tzimtzum’ as contraction, constriction or even as condensation. The Vilna Gaon and others in Kabbalah understand this to explain that Hashem began the process of creation by "contracting" his Ohr Ein Sof (infinite light) in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which finite and seemingly independent realms could exist. This primordial initial contraction, forming a "vacant space" into which new creative light could beam, is denoted by general reference to the tzimtzum that Hashem was able to have a ‘physical ‘place in this world. According to some, after Adam and Chava sinned Hashem didn’t have a place until the Mishkan was built and inaugurated, and later this spiritual presence of Hashem would be found in the physical place of the Beis HaMikdash.

Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Hashem does not have that ‘place’ in this world except when and where we bring Him in. These last few weeks have given us an opportunity to roll back the Gashmiyus/physical pleasures of the world and provided some space for that Tzimtzum of God to be welcomed back into our Mishkan. For me, some days I rise to the occasion and others I feel stifled. Sometimes I feel Hashem’s presence in a stronger, more formal way, but other times it’s business as usual.

We are still in the middle of this “miraculous time” of our lives; the jury is out as to how and when this will conclude. One question we must ALL ask ourselves is ,“Are we making the future an ordinary seven or a spiritually higher eight where Hashem will once again find Himself able to contract and be a more regular part of our daily life.

Parshas T'Tzaveh - Did They Call My Name?    10 Adar 5780

03/06/2020 12:19:28 AM


From the day of a baby boy’s bris or a baby girl’s naming, a person hears his name anywhere from five hundred thousand to a million times over a seventy-year life span. Throughout our lives there are times we want to hear our name being called out and other times when we absolutely do not want to hear our name called. If we are in a contest that calls out names to advance to the next round, we would want to hear our name called. On the other hand, when I attend jury duty, I do not want to hear my name being called because that means I was selected for a jury pool and I would not be able to leave early.

There are situations when we are in doubt as to whether we heard our name or not. For example, background noise or static can make it difficult to discern whether our name was announced or not This may occur at an airport terminal, or during a raffle or an auction. Also, the reason why my name is being called will have a direct effect upon how clearly I am able to decipher if my name was announced or someone else with a similar-sounding name was being called. I always find it quite amusing how some people ask me if I am related to Bogomilsky, and I ask them why they think I am related to that family. ? They typically explain that the names are so close and sound familiar. I tell them the two closest possibilities that we are related is that we were all at Har Sinai and our names are consecutive in the Brooklyn phonebook, but other than that the names are NOT the same!

There is a certain sensitivity to our names because our names are our specific identity. The Gemara Brachos 7b explains that our name is our essence and an insight to our personalities and our future. If someone calls us by a name which we do not approve of or relate to, we are hurt. On the other hand, when we are called by a name which we relate to or approve o,f we are proud. Our surname, family name, or last name is the portion of a personal name that indicates a person's family. Depending on the culture, all members of a family unit may have identical surnames. A given name, on the other hand, is unique for that particular individual and a further clarification may include a second or middle name. In the Torah we find a few places where a person is called by his name and then repeated a second time. For example, when Hashem called out Avraham, Avraham. Avraham responded, “I am here.” Avraham appreciated the feeling of endearment by hearing his name twice. There are many different reactions a person must have hearing his or her name being called. The reaction to hearing or even not hearing your name hinges upon the circumstances surrounding the reason why your name may or may not be called. A powerful illustration of this was discussed by my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah.

Rabbi Wein YB”L told about his experience walking around the children’s exhibit of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Years later, I had same experience when visiting Yad Vashem. An ongoing recording of the names of the one million children murdered by the Nazis, Yimach Shmom V’Zichram, is starkly heard by everyone entering the children’s exhibit. The voice recites the name of each child, the city where he or she came from, and the age of the child when he or she was killed. Rabbi Wein, who was just about the age of those children when he was growing up in Chicago, was waiting to hear his name being called, but it was not. Rabbi Wein found himself wondering why his name hadn’t been called. After all, he was the same age as many of the children whose names were being called out, albeit from cities and towns far away from the streets of Chicago’s West Side. Nevertheless, Rabbi Wein identified with those children. Perhaps he had survivors’ guilt, giving him the drive to make a difference in the world, to be a part of the rebuilding of the Jewish people. There were others in history who felt the same way when it came to cementing a place in history.

From parshas Shmos until the last portion of the Torah V’Zos HaBracha, Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is mentioned in every Parsha except for this week’s Parshas T’Tzaveh. Many are familiar with the reason why Moshe’s name is omitted this week. The remez, hint, is due to the fact this Parsha always coincides with the 7th of Adar which is the day of Moshe’s death. To symbolically recognize his absence from the world his name is left out this week. This only answers the fact of why it would be this week, if his name should be deleted at all? Did Moshe deserve to have his name to be left out, even though it’s just one Parsha? Many commentaries explain how after the debacle of the golden calf, God was so angry at the Jewish people that He was ready to get rid of them and start a new nation with Moshe at the helm (keep in mind Moshe was on top of Har Sinai at the time of the golden calf). Moshe argued, defending the people by reasoning that if God wiped out the Jews, the other nations of the world would question Hashem and declare how terrible Hashem is to take His people out of slavery only to kill them out in the desert. Furthermore, Moshe said, “If You wipe out the Jewish nation, then kill me along with them.” Moshe was the captain of the ship that was sinking, the last one off to safety, putting himself alongside the people. Moshe declared, ”If you wipe them out, then erase me from the book that you wrote”. Once Moshe made that statement, Hashem felt He needed to pay heed to the intent and even though He did not destroy the Jews He nevertheless ‘erased Moshe’s name’.. Hence God did not write Moshe’s name in this one portion and arranged it to occur on the week that Moshe died.

A difficulty still exists, however. Why would Hashem punish Moshe for trying to defend Am Yisroel? Reb Shimon Sofer explains that leaving out Moshe’s name is not a punishment; it is, to the contrary, a reward! Hashem gives Moshe a one-time honor of Moshe being the decider and giver of the Mitzva directly to the people without Hashem first commanding him to do so. The very first word of the Sedra is "ואתה" “and you” Moshe will command the Sons of Israel. This is similar to a king who gives permission to one of his servants to rule for a day. Because Moshe was willing to sacrifice his own name, Hashem rewarded him by establishing the Mitzva of the priestly garments. Sometimes even when you don’t hear your name being called, it is nevertheless loud and clear as to who is being called!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Teruma - Welcome to Shul!                   3 Adar 5780

02/28/2020 09:21:27 AM


We started off as a small family forced to evacuate and leave town. We ended up in a foreign land which at the beginning was very good because Hashem had arranged for the infrastructure to be there before we arrived. While it was a nice place, perhaps we overstayed our welcome, because the locals seemed to grow unhappy with our continued presence. Without actually telling us outright, they clearly implied, “You want to stay longer? Fine, but from now on under our conditions and our rules.” Within a short period of time, we were no longer enjoying our lives. We were oppressed with long hours of extremely hard, physical labor and unbearable living conditions. At our wits end and not knowing what else to do, as a last resort we just yelled out to our Father until He heard us and began making plans for us to leave.

We left abruptly with little time to pack provisions needed for our family which had not grown to a few million people with no clear direction as to where and how to flee. We wandered for forty-nine days, traveling through a river, a desert and finally ending up under a mountain where we were given an opportunity to accept upon ourselves a mandate that would unite us and bring our dispersed family back together again. Our now united, large family needed to have a central location where we could always be near our Father. We were commanded to make a house for our Father which would sit in the center of the entire camp/community/family. Unfortunately, it did not take long for differences of opinion and different desires to bubble up the surface.

My Rebbi/Rosh Yeshiva Rav Berel Wein YB”L always joked over serious matters. One of his many famous insights was regarding the time davening would begin in the Beis HaMikdash and whose nusach/text was to be used. Every group or sect emphatically felt that their customs would be the ones used in the Temple, and the time they preferred to begin and conclude would obviously be the choice to be followed. It is important to highlight a fact that we Jews do get along well with each other when under attack, times of duress and when facing a common enemy. Fortunately, however, there are times when we do not face an existential threat from our enemies and that, unfortunately, is when we become our own worst enemies. Until now the Jewish people are, by and large, okay with each other; when our families come to Shul, we often go our own way to daven, to learn, or to play.

I remember watching a Jewish video about twenty years ago about the Jewish family. One of the scenes (obviously staged for the video) focused on entire families – parents, children, other relatives - arriving and leaving Shul all together on Shabbos. This was clearly beautiful, symbolic gesture suggesting that every family, along with the entire community did one and the same thing together, strengthening themselves individually as a family and also collectively as a community. The image stuck in my head of family members holding hands, talking and walking happily together to and from Shul. The Shul/Synagogue is a central point of families bonding in a common effort that establishes and maintains a Jewish community. This is due to the center of our attention being Hashem, residing in the Mishkan which is in the center.

In this week’s sedra Teruma the Torah states in Shmos 26:1 "ואת המשכן תעשה עשר יריעות שש משזר ותכלת וארגמן ותולעת שני כרובים מעשה חושב תעשה אותם" “ - Make the tabernacle out of ten large tapestries consisting of twined linen, and sky blue, dark red, and crimson wool, with a pattern of cherubs woven into them”. Reb Yakov Krantz of Dubno (1741-1804), famously known as the Dubno Maggid, in his sefer Ohel Yakov explains the “Mishkan” in the following manner. The Midrash Yalkut Shmoni describes Hashem speaking to Moshe, “Make a Mishkan for Me because I desire to dwell close to my children.” When the angels heard this, they asked the Master of the Universe, “Why do you go down to that lower world? Your honor and praise is here with us in heaven.” Hashem responded, “By your life should I do as you say? Rather my praise is to fill the world.” The Dubno Maggid explains that there are some people who, like the angels, say that Hashem is so high, so great and holy, that it is beneath His dignity to place His essence among this world. The lower world that we are in is a drop in the bucket compared to the upper spheres and higher worlds. The truth is that God’s presence even in the upper world is not enough to meet Hashem’s greatness. The upper worlds are zero in comparison to Hashem, and with all of that He still wants to lower Himself to lead the world. This is because He wants everyone to know and recognize His reality in the world and that He alone runs the world.

In the previous discussion of the Yalkut, the angels missed the point of God’s decision to be in the lower world. They [the angels] exclaimed that God’s praise is only here with us in heaven. Hashem responded to the angels that the upper world, all the heavens, are also beneath the honor of Hashem. Hashem told the angels that His will is not limited to the upper world; it includes the lower world as well. Hashem’s desire is to fill all of the worlds He created.

The Shla”h HaKadosh Rav Yeshaya Horowitz explains this in a similar vein. We recite in Hallel a verse from Tehilim 113:6: “Who is like Hashem, our God who dwells on high, yet looks down so low in the heavens and upon the earth?” Even though He is so high, He desires to come down to be with us in His lower world. To Hashem, being that He is above all, both the heavens and the earth are below. He therefore seeks to fill the entire universe, even the areas that appear lower but are nevertheless part of the entire world, with His presence. God wants to be a part of our lives, to reveal Himself to each and every one of us. We have the obligation to recognize Hashem throughout the world. When we build our Shuls, homes and continuously strive to build up ourselves, allowing Hashem to come down and to be a part of our lives, enlightening us and expanding our awareness and awe of the majesty of Hashem so we can more profoundly appreciate the entirety of God’s existence.

Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim - Did Ralph Branca Ever Find Out The Truth?                       26 Shvat 5780

02/21/2020 08:32:19 AM


Shlomo HaMelch taught אין חדש תחת השמש - there is nothing new under the sun. America’s favorite pastime has been plagued by the now-famous sign-stealing scandal in baseball’s Houston Astros. Many people have heard of Bobby Thomson, who, in 1951, hit the shot that was heard round the world - a home run that was full of controversy regarding what Bobby knew and when Bobby knew It. Specifically, did Bobby Thomson, who hit the game-winning home run that put the Giants in the World Series vs. the Yankees, know what pitch was coming before he hit it out?

When Thomson was asked point blank if, in fact, he knew what pitch was about to be delivered by Branca, he at first demurred, speaking ambiguously. His response remains baffling. Fast forward almost seventy years, and the Astros, who admitted to foul play, are still short of coming out with the complete truth. In fact, as they tried to cover up, neither denying nor claiming any wrongdoing, more evidence and discovery of their lying surfaced.

Children are often caught up in situations that are challenged with wrongdoing. When asked if they committed the offense or not, they often do not tell the truth for fear of being punished. One of the basic rules my wife and I imbued within our children was to always tell the truth. To be honest, there were times when one of our children did get into trouble, told the truth, and got punished while his or her friend lied, avoiding any punishment. Nevertheless, we reinforced the Mitzva of not lying, emphasizing that in the long run telling the truth avoids the danger of getting caught up in a web of lies. Telling the truth, as difficult and as embarrassing it may be, is certainly better than having to come up with more excuses and eventually get caught in a swamp of many more lies. Unfortunately, many studies have shown a widespread theory that kids who lie will do so successfully, reinforcing the act of lying. The fact that lying does exist is exactly the reason why we should be teaching them not to.

Parents are constantly being put on the spot by their children, and age is not a factor because I see this from very young children to grown adult children. Children often ask their parents difficult, challenging, embarrassing, uneasy questions. Parents are sometimes at a loss regarding how to respond, how to answer difficult questions. The best advice I can offer is to be straight up and tell the truth. Of course, it should be an age- appropriate response. Only necessary information needs to be shared, depending upon the type of question, the age of the child and the circumstances. Even though there is a principle in Jewish law known as Shitkah K’Hodaa, it is not necessary to share more information than needed at that time. While silence is tantamount to an admission, it is still not an outright lie or untruth.

There are few if any Mitzvos in the Torah that command us not only to observe them by not violating them; we are commanded to distance ourselves from the very temptation. No place in the Torah tells us to move away from non-Kosher food, or stay away from idolatry. The Torah commands us not to eat non-kosher food and not to worship idols. The Torah does not say “do not speak falsely”, rather it states “from falsity shall you distance yourself”. When it comes to telling the truth, or better yet not lying, the direction is a bit different.

In this week’s Torah Portion Mishpatim the Torah states in Shmos 23:7 "מדבר שקר תרחק, ונקי וצדיק אל תהרג כי לא אצדיק רשע" “Keep away from anything false. Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. [Ultimately] I will not let a guilty person escape punishment.” The Torah states to “keep away” and the Hebrew ‘Tirchak’ literally means distance oneself from it. The Menoras HaMaor urges the need for people to know that one of the three pillars upon which the world stands is Emes/truth. When a person tells the truth, an abundance of goodness and blessing falls from the heavens. Dovid HaMelch says in Tehilim 85:12: “Truth will sprout from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven”. The message is clear: when mankind speaks the truth, righteousness is created in heaven and the land will yield forth blessings. The opposite, however, is also true. If people speak falsely, Hashem is angered greatly. It is for this reason that we find ourselves in the diaspora today, far from the house of God in Yerushalayim. Lying is a major cause of discord among people. It leads to theft and ultimately to the breakdown and destruction of society.

Some may ask how far one needs to go to keep away from anything false. The answer is simple…tell the truth. If something is ninety-nine percent true, we know it is false. For something to be true it must be one hundred percent truth; there is no room for anything false. Reb Avraham Abish from Frankfort Am Mein declared, “ If only a person understood how great the power of truth is, he would never come to say an untruth.” Learning to tell the truth isn’t necessarily easy; we need to learn about it and work on it like any other Mitzva. It is told about the Baal HaTanya that it took him twenty-one years to master truth telling. Twenty-one years you ask? Yes, seven years to know what the truth is, seven years to chase away and divorce falsehood from his mind and the last seven years to bring the truth into his realm of thinking. As found in so many studies, children tend to lie, building an immunity to it. It takes years of facing the truth to master it.

In Western culture there is a tradition of making a statement or at least an affirmation to telling the truth. The phrase’ I Swear to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God’ is actually what Reb Yitzchok Abuhav meant in his sefer Menoras Hamaor. If I tell the truth Hashem will help me, but if I fail to tell the truth, He won’t. The Torah is known as Toras Emes - the Torah is Truth! Rebbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa quips, “ We do not find the Torah itself taking measures to keep away from something except for this command telling us not to lie.” Unfortunately, lying and cheating is not a new challenge. Nevertheless, we, Am Yisroel, need to set the standards straight and not only tell the truth but remove ourselves from Sheker. Sheker - falsehood - will never last, but Emes - truth - will keep the world going and flourishing with the blessings it produces.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Yisro - Peer Pressure or Peer Support    18 Shvat 5780

02/12/2020 06:43:39 PM


Words and expressions of speech can be very delicate and must be used in their proper context in order to convey the message intended. Seemingly simple words, physical expressions and figures of speech can have multiple meanings and thus need to be used with care. In addition, some sayings and expressions have a negative tone or connotation but can have a positive spin as well. I will illustrate with two examples. One of the boys in Shul told me he had recently made the school basketball team and needed to reschedule a learning session with me because he had “practice”. I quipped with him and said, “Why do you need to practice if you made the team? Surely,” I continued, “if you are not good enough and need to practice you would not have made the team.” I continued by saying, “If you are so good, why do you need to practice?” All of this jibing, of course, went right over his head. Similarly, when looking for professional help and you read the bio of the doctor, lawyer, or whomever, and it states that this individual has been in practice for over twenty-five years, you may stop reading and consider, “Do I seriously want to go to someone who, after twenty-five years, is still advertising and still practicing full time? Surely by now they should no longer need to practice!”

The second anecdote is similar yet different. The notion of peer pressure, almost to the degree that a person feels he has no choice but to follow and behave in the same inappropriate way that others are acting gives cause for concern. Everyone wants to belong and to be well-liked. Unfortunately, sometimes a person falls prey to the people they think are their friends, striving to follow in their footsteps in order to gain favor in their eyes. The mere thought of being “left out” is enough pressure from the peers that causes a person to do something even though he or she knows it is wrong. Unfortunately, I think we’ve all had the experience of peer pressure in our lives. Hopefully, it was a meaningless act to follow and did not leave any lifetime scars.

There is, however, another way to view “peer pressure” and that is to feel pressured to do the right thing and follow in the ways of the goody two shoes. I’m referring to the person who chooses to Perform an act or do something good and positive despite the fact you did not want to do it, yet doing it because of positive peer pressure. Peer pressure is common among children who are influenced by their peers. Is peer pressure good or bad? As mentioned above, peer pressure is not always a bad thing. Positive peer pressure can be extremely powerful, used to pressure bullies into acting more sensitively, kindlier toward other kids. If enough kids get together to create positive change, they can pressure each other into doing what's right!

For the pressure to work properly it must be aligned. The secret to breaking the peer pressure lies in balance. This is easily understood through considering the pressure found in tires. To receive the best results from tire wear, the pressure in all of the tires need to be aligned with an equal number of pounds of pressure. If all four tires do not have the same pressure, then they wear differently and break down. Similarly, peer pressure is only effective both in the negative and in the positive sense if all team up to work together. Once one person is not aligned with everyone else, there is a weak link and the pressure is no longer as intense to follow along. As with all behavior we find best practices from the Torah.

In this week’s Sedra Yisro the Torah states in Shmos 18:9 "ויחד יתרו על כל הטובה אשר עשה ה' לישראל אשר הצילו מיד מצרים" : “Jethro expressed joy because of all the good that God had done for Israel, rescuing them from Egypt’s power”. Rashi brings the Midrashic Aggadic interpretation: His flesh became a mass of cuts or prickles; he grieved over the destruction of Egypt. That is what people say: Regarding the proselyte, even until the tenth generation, do not put to shame a gentile (Armean) in his presence. A person is able to change his essence as explained by the sefer HaChinuch in the mitzva of not breaking the bone of the Korban Pesach. As we go through the act of performing a Mitzva, the very act itself transforms a person for the better. Unfortunately, by committing a sin, that person is transformed into a worse human being. And yet, even when a person learns to be better - or worse - the essence and root of whom the person is now becoming continues to influence that individual throughout his or her lifetime. As we see from Yisro, despite becoming as close to the Jewish people as possible with the leader Moshe as his son-in-law, Yisro still bemoaned the fact of Egypt’s destruction.

Reb Yisroel Lipshutz*, author of the Tiferes Yisroel, a commentary on the Mishna at the end of Meseches Kiddushin, shares an explosive understanding of who Moshe Rabbeinu was. When the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, Moshe’s name became famous throughout the world. A certain king sent a sculptor/painter to paint the face of Moshe Rabbeinu. He did so and when he returned to the king, the king turned to the wise men of his court to describe who Moshe was through his picture. The king wanted to know Moshe’s nature and character, and the nature of his great strength. The wise men responded that the person whom they are looking at has many bad qualities and overall is not a good person. They describe Moshe as being two-faced in business, haughty, money hungry and more. Whatever moral deficiencies there could be in a person they claimed Moshe possessed. The king was furious because all he had heard from anyone he asked replied the complete opposite. The king thought the painter/sculptor made a mistake. The two descriptions of Moshe did not agree: the painter claimed the wise men were wrong, and the wise men declared the painter was wrong. The king, therefore, decided to see for himself and made his way to the Jewish camp, going directly to Moshe himself in order to compare the picture to the description given of Moshe. After just a few moments, the kind reckoned that the wise men were the ones who had made the error in judgment regarding who Moshe really was and what he was all about. Moshe stopped the king and explained the following: “Both the painter and your wise men are incredible at what they see. They are both right. If I [Moshe] would have continued my life, following the natural course into which I was born, I would have lived up to the description of your wise men, I would have been a fool , just like a dried-up piece of wood. I am not embarrassed to tell you,” Moshe continued, “all the qualities that your wise men said I was lacking are all part of the natural make-up of who I am. But, with resolve, I strengthened myself to overcome and chase away the evil, to conquer it to the degree that I acquired the opposite character traits, making them second nature to me.

Moshe Rabbeinu, through peer pressure, was able to overcome and literally change who he was. It is without a doubt that Moshe “practiced” consistently to create this change and continuing in his new mode to practice throughout his entire life. Change is difficult, especially when working against peer pressure. If we create a peer support who emulates who and what we strive to become, such positive growth and accomplishment is within our reach. Sometimes a person needs to go against the grain, to consciously refuse to follow the temptation of the bad behavior group. It is this resilience and strength that makes a leader as great as . All of us can strive to develop that positive pressure and practice it so we can demonstrate our leadership in being the role models for our family and Klal Yisroel.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Yisrael Lipshutz ישראל ליפשיץ‏; 1782–1860 was a leading 19th century Ashkenazi rabbi, first in Dessau and then in the Jewish Community of Danzig. Rabbi Lipshutz was the author of the commentary “Tiferes Yisrael”, a well-known commentary on the Mishnah. The edition of the Mishnah containing this commentary is often referred to as "Mishnayos Yachin uBoaz". The commentary is divided into two parts, one more general and one more analytical, titled "Yachin" and "Boaz" respectively (after two large pillars in Solomon's Temple, the first Temple in Jerusalem). This is often considered to be one of the clearest and most useful commentaries on the Mishnah.

Parshas B'Shalach - Stuff is Not His Who Has It, but His Who Enjoys It       12 Shvat 5780

02/07/2020 08:46:00 AM


Over time, nostalgia has taken on greater significance for me. . There are many Knick knacks from my childhood and from my children’s childhoods that I have saved, causing one of the few areas of contention between my wife and me. She wants to get rid of all the keepsakes; I see them as treasures. Please understand. I’m not a typical hoarder, because I don’t meet the five levels of hoarding. The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization created a clutter hoarding scale consisting of five levels of hoarding. I will not even share levels three to five because those levels clearly describe a disorder that does not, Baruch Hashem, apply to me. Even levels one and two are different than my kind of saving. Statistically, a Level 1 hoarder is defined as someone whose clutter fills the bathrooms and kitchen. A Level 2 hoarder has at least four pets, too many per local regulations. People with hoarding disorders often save random items and store them haphazardly. Some kind of hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress, leading to problems functioning. Some research shows hoarding disorders are more common in males than females. Hoarding also has a genetic component, but researchers suspect that what's inherited is not a compulsion to keep stuff, per se, but rather a crippling indecisiveness, according to David Tolin, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Center in Hartford, Connecticut.

  1. issue isn’t really hoarding old used items, rather I tend to buy new things and put them away and not use them for a while. I have a stockpile of new socks, shirts, a suit or two and even a few pair of brand-new shoes never yet worn. I can only explain this phenom in either one of two ways. The first, as a genetic condition I inherited from my parents. In the basement of our house, we stored cans of food, boxes of cereal, tissues and toilet paper in quantities to last a lifetime. My parents did not live through the depression, but they were the children of immigrants who definitely were driven to save a penny or two. The second possibility is that I am preparing for an apocalypse when the malls will be shut down, Amazon will not longer sell everything I could possibly buy in a mall, and at last my stash of attire will save the day. I will be prepared with new clothing! The downside of putting things away is that by the time I’m ready to use this array of clothing they’ll be out of style and will probably no longer fit. However, on second thought, by the time I lose weight, the clothing will be back in style! While this line of reasoning is not unique, the line of thinking seems justifiable to me!

In this week’s Sedra the Torah states in Shmos 16:19,20: ויאמר משה אלהם איש אל יותר ממנו עד בקר “Moshe announced to them, “Let no man leave over any until morning”. ולא שמעו אל משה ויותירו אנשים ממנו עד בקר וירם תולעים ויבאש ויקצוף עלהם משה “Some men did not listen to Moshe and left a portion over for the morning. It became putrid, filled with maggots and worms. Moshe was angry with these people”. Why did Moshe get angry at the people for leaving over some food, attempting to save it for the morning? The answer lies in the preceding verses, leading up to the time they left over the food. In verse 16”18 the Torah stated that when the Jews went out to pick up the manna, some gathered more and some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who had taken more did not have any extra, and those who had taken less did not have too little. They had gathered exactly enough for each one to eat”. Reb Shlomo Lunchitz in his commentary Kli Yakar explains that the story of the manna is a display of the known wonder that the sustenance and salary of a person is set for him from the beginning of his life to the end. An individual who tries to gather more than he needs in his lifetime leaves this world with nothing extra, because a person at the time of death cannot take it with him. So too, someone who only gathered a minimum in this world didn’t lack because Hashem gives to every living creature what he needs for survival. For this reason, a miracle took place: the measure of the manna was equal to all and the “extra” a person tried to garner was wormy the very next morning. This teaches us that whatever a person stores up to save for the morrow will go bad. In the end it will be wormy and full of maggots.

The Mechilta teaches us that the Torah was only given to the consumers of the manna. The way an individual seizes the Torah and delves into it is by toiling in Torah without the extras of life. The Torah scholar knows that all the extras are for naught and eventually get eaten up by others. The exception of picking up only manna for one day was Friday when the command was to take a double portion, one extra for Shabbos. That extra portion set aside for Shabbos did not go bad; it remained fresh even the next day. The manna was spiritual food , teaching us the lesson of taking an extra portion for Shabbos in the physical sense and relating to the extra Torah learned for the Shabbos day in the next world where every day is a complete day of Shabbos. The spiritual sustenance never goes bad; it lasts for eternity. This point of spirituality lasting forever is seen by the commandment Hashem gave to save and place a jar of manna in front of the Ark of Testimony in the place of the Luchos of the Torah. This was to show that the Torah was only given to those who merited eating the manna.

  1. is no question a person should use and enjoy things in the present while at times saving something for the future. How do we decide what to use and what to put away? Perishables should be used immediately while non-perishable items could be stored for a later time. Sometimes that works and other times it does not, as in my case where the items we store away may never be used. On the spiritual side, when learning Torah and performing Mitzvos, it’s a different story. The Gemara Shabbos 127a states: These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. The physical foods of today should be treated as the spiritual manna of the past. We eat to physically live in this world but our principal – the spiritual sustenance lives on in the next.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bo - The Rules of the Road                5th of Shvat 5780

01/31/2020 11:17:36 AM


It is now forty years since I began driving an automobile. I took driver’s education and it was through them I got my license, but it was my mother, of blessed memory, who taught me how to drive. Ove the years I’ve heard that I have a reputation of being a New York driver. Some passengers in my car requested double seat belts and a parachute with an optional eject button just in case they needed access to an early departure. New York drivers are known to be aggressive; it is a direct correlation to the aggressiveness of daily life in New York city. In contrast, living in Charleston, South Carolina, cars can be sold with a horn because no one ever beeps such a rude, noisy device. The pace, speed and style of driving is completely different from place to place. I clearly experienced this throughout the years but learning to drive was in New York city. Years later, I needed to adjust my driving habits and change my skills while living in the south. Every culture, society, and people develop different habits in every area of life, including the art of driving. Once again, it is the influence of who, where, and why someone is in a place that directly affects how they drive.

Since my family and I have had the experience of living in different parts of the country, our driving habits have been shaped to conform to the patterns of that locale. When I am back in New York, I need to say to myself, “Okay. I need to revert back to my New York aggressive style of driving.” This may include any or all of the following: weaving in and out of traffic, cutting someone off, honking the horn until my palms ache, cut off careless pedestrians, and so forth. When I return to San Diego, I revert back to my definition of a less-aggressive driving style while still reserving the option of the old school driving whenever I deem it to be necessary.

Today, I live in a community that has a major university located in the heart of the neighborhood. Forty thousand plus students mill around what’s known as the College Area throughout each semester. There is an incredible drop in traffic school as soon as winter break, spring break, or summer vacation begins followed by an enormous rise in traffic as soon as school resumes. It is a great relief for those who live in the area during summer, winter, and the shorter breaks throughout the year.

Driving or walking through the streets unfettered by strolling students and cars and busses clogging the roadways can be a time-consuming and stressful experience. Just as there is relief and more air to breath when the students are gone, so too is there more stress and anxiety when the students return. All breaks, short or long, are not only a vacation for the students; they are also a much-appreciated vacation for those of us who live here. Drivers get quickly acclimated to open streets, allowing quicker access to and from the freeway into the neighborhood. Even the freeways see a decrease in the flow of traffic because all schools around the city are also on break. The flip side of this traffic swing is also apparent. During breaks I adjust my driving times based upon the joy of minimum traffic. Unfortunately, it takes a few days to recalibrate my driving times when the city streets fill up again. This phenomenon affected me no less than three times this week as I was running late due to the forgotten traffic conditions I now face until spring break. I was fascinated to learn that I am just a “subject” on driving patterns. Please read on…

A group of researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California at San Diego found that they could "fingerprint" drivers based exclusively on data they collected from the internal computer network of the vehicle their test subjects were driving. This is known as a car's CAN bus. In fact, they found that the data collected from a car's brake pedal alone could allow them to correctly distinguish the correct driver from 15 individuals about nine times out of ten, after just 15 minutes of driving. With 90 minutes driving data or monitoring more car components, these researchers could pick out the correct driver 100 percent of the time. Bear in mind, despite the recent study shown, the concept of travel is not a new one. It dates back thousands of years as we follow the Jewish people who, for most of our existence, have been on the road. A simple illustration of this found in this week’s Torah reading.

In this week’s Sedra Bo the Torah states in Shmos 12:37"ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס סכתה כשש מאות אלף רגלי הגברים לבד מטף" “The Israelites traveled from Ramses toward Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 adult males on foot, in addition to the women and children. In addition, great number of nationalities also left with them along with sheep and cattle, and a huge amount of livestock”. The Torah describes an incredible size of live traffic moving out of Egypt on its way to an unknown place, all following Moshe Rabbeinu to the promised land. We’ve learned how the Jews were forced to flee quickly, not even having the time to allow their bread to rise. Somehow, they managed to travel quickly despite the size of the camp. We know what it is like to go on a family trip, complicated by multiple generations, each person moving at his/her own pace. Children, especially young ones who want to walk and not be carried, are typically slower than the young, healthy adults. The senior population would yell to the younger generation, “Go ahead, keep going, don’t wait. We’ll catch up.” Despite and slavery and suffering, leaving a land they knew as home was also painful. Change is frightening, especially when traveling into the unknown. Nevertheless, with all of the obstacles and challenges, Hashem made it happen. Everyone was able to keep up the pace; despite their own patterns of travel, they stayed together. My guess from studying the sources was that no one bumped into others or stepped on the back of the sandal of the person in front of them. The miracles that included the actual leaving and traveling was no less miraculous than these other overlooked miracles. The people, all inexperienced travelers, adapted well to their surroundings. No one went too fast or too slow.

Our modern living style, overlaid with commuting, picking up our children, driving all over the place calculating when to leave and how much time is needed get to the next destination, relies routinely on the car’s nav system, WAZE, or Google Maps. It behooves us to keep in mind who is really controlling those apps. All of these devices, ingenious creations of man are, in fact, guides from Hashem. The prayer of Tefilas HaDerech is recited on trips when leaving a city or when departing for longer journeys. Even though we may not be obligated to say the Bracha/blessing of the wayfarer’s prayer, we should always keep in mind that the roads and traffic are still controlled by Hashem. If we keep this thought in mind, our driving will be safer, our blood pressure and anxiety levels will drop, and ultimately this will bring us to the Derech Hashem, the Path of God.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEira - Overcoming the Handicap          27 Kislev 5780

01/24/2020 11:12:49 AM


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public and private life, including employment, education, transportation and access to all places available to the general public, became law in 1990. On occasion, I find myself giving a ride sharing a trip with someone who has a handicap permit. Typically, I and am told by the handicapped individual that he will bring the permit so we can make parking a bit easier and closer to the venue we are attending together.

There is no question as to the different reasons why a person is entitled to this placard and the necessity it provides and the validity that it justifies. Nevertheless, for a moment I think to myself, “Hey, that’s great, but wait a minute, Baruch Hashem I don’t have a disability., I should not take advantage of this.” After that thought, I realize that it’s not for me but rather for my passenger who legitimately requires it. But then I think to myself, why not drop this person off closer to where we are going and then park somewhere else, then getting the car when it’s time to pick the person up. The law allows the service provider or the vehicle to be a part of this permit because allowing the provider this extra benefit ultimately serves the disadvantaged person while allowing the provider some extra benefit as well.

In truth, we are all handicapped in different ways. Of course, the ADA has proven to be a great step towards directly helping many with physical disabilities. I write the following connection with great trepidation. I am not comparing someone with a disability who falls under the statute of the ADA; all of us have some kind of disability which is not specifically physical, such as spiritual, emotional or personal. This second group mentioned is not entitled to a placard, allowing them to park in a designated parking spot. These disability need to be identified by the individuals themselves. The reason it is important for an individual to recognize and identify such handicaps is so that they will be able to face them in order to work to overcome them.

I am one who has thought back to something that I overcame over a period of time. Perhaps, people look at me today as being outgoing, loud, outspoken, opinionated and the like. This has not been the case my entire life. As a child I was someone who for the most played alone, only rarely going to a friend’s house for a play date. I occupied my time with my cars and soldiers. My pre-teen years were dedicated to sports, yet, even then, played ball, creating games and challenges against myself, i.e. stoop, off the wall and one-on-one basketball. The one-on-one was me against myself. My high school years were a little more social, but I traveled to and from school alone and did not live near the friends I made in high school. Looking back, I’m guessing that it wasn’t until my later teenage years that I became more social but still in a reserved manner. As I entered Yeshiva, I actively took on more of a leadership role, but it did not come naturally; I needed to work on it. Fast forward thirty-five years and at times I feel I just want to be that shy guy, left alone to sit in the corner and not be bothered with constant obligations of communal spiritual leadership. In life, a person who is able to express himself and be a little more outspoken has some benefits (and sometimes detractions). But looking back, I think subconsciously I made these adjustments, understanding that to not do so would have limited my ability to do the things I do today. My situation (not a bad one) was, to a degree, some form of handicap; I needed to face my reluctance to leave my one-on-one inner contentment in order to develop my inner understanding of the need to reach out to others, to share and feel and grow through the awareness of how much each of us can gain through social and emotional experiences which are shared. My disability or challenge was not physical; it was emotional. There is a wide range of disabilities we each of us may find ourselves on the spectrum. Since no one person is perfect, by definition we are all imperfect. Once I recognize an imperfection, I focus inwardly, striving to correct and fix it to whatever degree possible. This notion of a physical yet non-physical disability is found within the most classic fundamental icon, Moshe Rabbeinu.

We are all familiar with the Midrash of Moshe sitting on Pharoah’s lap and was given the test of picking up some sparkling jewels or glowing hot coals. Moshe set out to pick up one of the precious gems, but an angel pushed his hand away towards the coals to pick up the hot, worthless piece rather than the glittering, valuable piece. Hashem sent the Malach (angel) to change course to convince Pharoah that Moshe was not so smart, that he couldn’t be the savior for the Jewish people. This event allowed Moshe to live and grow up as an Egyptian prince who one day might ascend to the throne and not to become the leader of the Jewish people. When Moshe picked up the hot coal, he immediately dropped it and brought his burning fingers to his lips to cool down. As a result, the Midrash explains that act created some type of speech defect in either Moshe’s tongue or on his lips. This physical limitation is brought up as a defense for Moshe to decline the mission for which he was hand-picked by God. We see this clearly stated in the Torah.

In this week’s Torah reading Parshas Va’eira, God gives a second demurral to Moshe. It states in Shmos 6:29,30: וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹ֖ר אֲנִ֣י יְהוָ֑ה דַּבֵּ֗ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י דֹּבֵ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ “God spoke to Moshe and said, ‘I am God. Relate to Pharoah, king of Egypt, that I am saying to you.’ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ עֲרַ֣ל שְׂפָתַ֔יִם וְאֵ֕יךְ יִשְׁמַ֥ע אֵלַ֖י פַּרְעֹֽה׃ “Interrupting the revelation, Moshe said, ‘I do not have the self-confidence to speak. How will Pharoah ever pay attention to me?’. Rabbi Aryah Kaplan gives a unique understanding of Moshe’s lip or tongue handicap. This was not the first time Moshe mentioned this excuse. Looking back only a few verses earlier in Shmos 6:12 Moshe claims the same defense. Why does he repeat it again? The Netzi”v, in his commentary HaAmek Davar, explains “not only am I not capable of physically saying the words properly, but in the eyes or ears of Pharoah it would not be well taken.” Hashem took the second time as a sign of humility that Moshe is not on the level of the mighty Pharoah. Hashem in turn has mercy upon Moshe; despite his “shortcomings” Hashem blessed Moshe to succeed in every endeavor and overcame the speech impediment. It is not that he no longer had the impediment; this disability did not impede Moshe from growing and becoming the greatest leader of the Jewish people.

May we all take this great lesson to heart. No matter what challenges we all face, if we accept them with humility, Hashem will bless each and everyone of us not only to overcome but to succeed beyond our greatest dreams.                                                           Ah Gut Shabbos      Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shmos - Heritage = Past, Present & Future     20 Kislev 5780

01/17/2020 01:01:58 PM


Last month, my wife and I had the fortune to visit Prague, one of the nicest cities in Europe. Prague is one of only a few cities that was not bombed (intentionally) during World War II. The beauty and the quaintness of the city is just as it was four to five hundred years ago. One of the most interesting facts of the city is how Jewish life can be traced back almost a thousand years. Prague’s Jewish heritage is most noted for the famed Mahara”l of Prague, along with some of the greatest Rabbonim who lived and served in those communities. Although the city suffered and was oppressed by the Communist regime, Jewish culture was allowed to remain. This is particularly highlighted through the transformation of many of the Synagogues into museums as opposed to being razed.

The Jews of Prague were able to sustain a Jewish presence, carrying on our culture, traditions, and laws through the preservation of the museums. They had Machzorim, Haggadot, Chumashim and Siddurim dating from hundreds of years ago. The beauty and privilege of seeing them was enhanced by knowing that these precious Seforim contain the same words and prayers we are still saying today. One particular Tefilla stood out to me and my wife a little bit more than the rest: the prayer for the government and its leaders.

Every Shabbos, here at Beth Jacob and at many Shuls throughout the world, a prayer is recited for the welfare of the government and its leaders, Jewish or not. Many people think the origin of this prayer is from Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 3:2 touches on the subject. Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol says: ‘Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow his fellow alive.’ What makes this Talmudic reference all the more remarkable is that Chanina lived in the days of Nero- a ruler whose name has become synonymous with tyranny- and he heralded a long tradition of Jews praying for rulers for whom they didn’t particularly care.

But this is not the first place or source we find this reference. The origin of the prayer for the welfare of the government is biblical. It was following the first exile, as we sat by the waters of Babylon, that the Navi Yirmiyahu conveyed to us the following: וְדִרְשׁ֞וּ אֶת־שְׁל֣וֹם הָעִ֗יר אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִגְלֵ֤יתִי אֶתְכֶם֙ שָׁ֔מָּה וְהִתְפַּֽלְל֥וּ בַעֲדָ֖הּ אֶל־יְקוָ֑ה כִּ֣י בִשְׁלוֹמָ֔הּ יִהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם שָׁלֽוֹם׃ “So said the Lord of Hosts… seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to Hashem on its behalf, for in its prosperity you shall prosper.” This was after 586 BCE. Not 200 years later Ezra recorded that in the rebuilt Second Temple it was the practice to offer sacrifices and prayers for the lives of Emperor Darius I of Persia and his children. Some six hundred years after that Pirkei Avos touches upon this.

As mentioned earlier, this tefila was said for rulers known to be tyrannical and anti-Semitic. In the 1740’s the Jews of Czechoslovakia were saying this prayer every Shabbos morning on behalf of Maria Theresa, the mother of Mary Antoinette. On December 18, 1744, Maria Theresa, queen of Austria and archduchess of Hungary and Bohemia, signed an edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews, first from Prague – all Jews had to depart by the end of January 1745 – and then, by June, from all her hereditary dominions, that is, from Moravia and Bohemia. Maria Theresa had a profound hatred of Jews. In 1777, she wrote, "I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary.” Additionally, she was prey to rumors that Prague’s Jews had sided with the Prussians, and against her, during the city’s occupation in the summer of 1744, during the course of the War of the Austrian Succession. And yet with all this we still maintained the prayer as can be seen here. It is truly a support of our history and heritage which has an unbroken chain for over twenty-five hundred years, that in spite of centuries of hatred and persecution we have recited a prayer for the government despite their anti-Semitic view of Jews.

Throughout my years in the Rabbinate I’ve seen and heard calls for Discover your Heritage! Over time I’ve come to see that this this well-intended call falls far short of what is necessary. We cannot just stop when our heritage is discovered anew by those whose opportunities to learn about it have been awakened. We all need to learn about and strengthen our magnificent heritage. Everyone needs to learn more of our history, our treasures, our scholarship and our accomplishments; to just ‘discover’ our heritage is not enough.

Last week we concluded Sefer Bereishis. I described the first book of the Torah as one full of basic principles of faith learning from the forefathers how they each individually built the Jewish people. Sefer Shmos, the book of Exodus, continues to teach us, describing the Emunah/faith of the Jewish people throughout our history. We became a nation in Mitzrayim, exiting the land of our slavery accompanied by great cataclysmic miracles that devastated the land of Egypt. Through these miracles we and the nations of the world came to know Hashem. The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo divides the book from when we left Egypt to the second half when we received the Torah on Har Sinai, whereby we received the Shechina (God’s eminence). The third section of Shmos is the Mishkan which leads to the service of sacrifices to Hashem by the Kohanim and Leviim. In the beginning of Shmos, it says a new king arose in Egypt who didn’t know Yosef. There is a famous Rashi here which gives two explanations of “not knowing Yosef”. The first is that there was an actual new king, a different person who did not know who Yosef was. The second interpretation is that it was the same old king who came up with new decrees, either trying to forget who Yosef was or ignoring the fact of all the good Yosef had done to save Egypt. I would like to suggest that he did not know the history and heritage of Yosef. Not the history and heritage you may be thinking of Egypt but rather the past history that Yosef represents from the time of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. In that he, Yosef, is in the continuing position of the previous generations. The new decrees did not recognize and could not foretell the rich heritage of the Jewish people that was now cemented in their becoming a nation.

The strength of the Jewish people lies in our past, present and future. But the past, present and future of the Jewish people are not single, divided times in our history. Rather our past, our present and our future are all linked intimately together by our belief, language, names, dress, and ideas that have kept us going and will continue to nurture us until the ultimate redemption, speedily in our day! 

Parshas Vayechi - Living Through Our Written Words     13 Teves 5780

01/10/2020 12:50:16 PM


In 2005, at the conclusion of the eleventh completion of the Daf Yomi cycle, I was inspired to contribute to the Jewish world of learning Torah. As the excitement grew following the world-wide celebrations of this Siyum HaShas, more and more Torah publications were written to enhance the daily learning initiative. Highly motivated by the excitement of having completed this seven-and-a-half year cycle, I came up with an idea for making the daily learning of one page of Gemara come to life and grow in significance. I noticed over the years that Rashi, the main commentary and Tosafos, give a basic explanation and understanding of the text. In addition to the main purpose of their approach, I noticed that on almost every daf (a daf is both sides of the page) there would be a comment that was not particularly needed to explain the text. It was sometimes an insight into nature or life. At times it explained and also guided human behavior; at other times it was a soft rebuke. All in all, I thought it was something unique to call out every day, share thoughts regarding life experiences that relate to the learning or events of each day.

  1. eagerly began this project, striving to identify some insight into human psychology that I learned in Rashi’s commentaries. Each day I wrote a few hundred words, striving to highlight and illuminate the insights of Rashi which went beyond the textual understanding of the Gemara. Unfortunately, this keen commitment lasted for about nine days. This past Sunday as we again completed and began the new cycle of learning each day, I turned to the Gemara that I had used fifteen years ago, and I am now reviewing those highlights and am sharing the insights I had written with our Daf Yomi group. Nevertheless, feel a twinge of regret for not having continued pursuing my goal. Perhaps the silver lining in my not continuing was the initiation of writing of a weekly message a few years later. The project of writing a weekly message was manageable because it was only once a week. As look back, my weekly message is similar to the initial book in that I took a common or obvious event or feeling from our daily lives and related it back to something in the Parsha. These weekly writings eventually were published in book form. Now as I look back at my recorded insights of Rashi, was once again overcome with a desire to take on this challenge anew, I knew I could not if I were still writing a weekly message. Now, three years after publishing my first book, I signed a contract to write/publish a second one. Perhaps when I finish this book, I’ll take a break from the weekly writing and write a daily insight from that day’s daf Yomi.

When writing a book of this genre, the author must strive to maintain a consistent theme which clearly reflects and nurtures the purpose of the work. In addition, this challenge must also repeatedly reflect the importance of that theme to the reader, insuring from the outset that specific thoughts compliment and deepen both awareness and belief with clarity and personal appeal to the reader. This Shabbos we read Parshas Vayechi, concluding Sefer Bereishis. What was the Author’s intent throughout the book of Bereishis? Of course, there is no comparison with a human being writing a book compared to God who knows all. Nevertheless, what was the theme of Sefer Berishis?

A primary purpose of creation is knowing that Hashem created the world. This introduction is that the Neshama/soul is the center of our Emunah/belief. Hashem created His house. At the very beginning man must decide if he will look at this world as if he alone is in charge or if he stands in front of and ultimately answers to HaKasoh Boruch Hu. This decision must be made from the outset. It is an indication of whether or not he is a Ba’al Emunah or not. To make such a determination we study and learn about the three primary personalities in Bereishis: Avraham Yitzchok and Yakov. These are our Avos, our fathers, the core reason why the Book of Berishis is called by “Sefer HaAvos” the book of the fathers. Each believer has a unique characteristic that highlights his or her Emunah to God. It is that unique quality that brings out our sign of belief in Hashem. Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov make up the face of Emunah through certain practices throughout our lives..

Avraham was the ‘mevater’ - a yielding person. He gave up his land, birthplace and family. He was willing to give up his life and be burned alive in Ur Kasdim by refusing to bow down to Nimrod. Avraham yielded to Sarah’s demand to send out Hagar and Yishmael, and then was ready to sacrifice his own son Yitzchok. Reb Zushya explains Avraham is willing to give up everything to serve God because of his belief.

Yitzchok was a ‘Parush’ - a reclusive, abstinent, and self-denying person. He separated himself for the Akeidah by separating and making himself like an Olah, a sacrifice to God. He did not go down to Egypt nor did he leave for Aram Naharayim. At the end of his days he went blind and was not able to see results of sins. Through these acts of separation, he elevated himself due to the endless Emunah and belief he had in Hashem.

Yaakov was a ‘sovel’ - a person of great patience. Yaakov served God with total devotion and patience. Yaakov was able to tolerate the shenanigans of his father-in- law Lavan. He endured the taking of Dinah and the selling of Yosef. He carried the burden of exile, going down to Egypt.

These are the qualities that shaped the essence of our Avos, demonstrating total belief, faith that Hashem created the world and is the one and only God.

  1. ultimate purpose of writing is to strengthen and deepen our Emunah and faith in Hashem. It is during the daily struggles of life, its ups and downs and challenges, that we need to see and reach out to Hashem. Whether it is from a Rashi pointing out something about our daily life or something that I point out in the obvious and not so obvious events of life that we see Hashem. This is the success of a sefer and concluding it, maintaining the theme of Emunah from beginning to end. The word Bereishis can be divided Barah Shis Hashem - created in six. It is within the creation of the six days that we can see God’s hand and develop recognition of Him to strengthen our Emunah. Just as we finish Sefer Bereishis we should see Hashem and continue to deepen our Emunah and belief in Hashem throughout the other twenty three books of Tanach, making our way through the Torah She’Baal Peh the Oral Torah with focus, devotion, and continued growth and depth of understanding.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Parshas Vayigash - A Sage is Beyond his Years       6 Teves 5780

01/03/2020 09:23:41 AM


By now many of you have read some of the stories, heard the testimonials or saw the 13th Siyum Hashas this past New Year’s Day that people participated in from around the world and centered in MetLife Stadium. For those who may not have yet, and those who have there is always another angle that we can draw from this momentous occasion. With that caveat, I would like to share a few ideas that have been buzzing in my head for the last few months.

A true sage is recognized years later when his teachings are finally understood and perhaps experienced. I remember when I was in Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein Y”BL discussed the laws of Sukkah and who and under what conditions a person may be Patur/exempt from eating in the Sukkah. Keep in mind Sukkos on the East coast and Monsey in particular brought an early winter and was uncomfortable to sit in the Sukkah. At what degree would a person be exempt? Rabbi Wein in his imitable fashion with his Midwest accent said, “it’s not about degrees or temperature but attitude and dedication. If a person had a ticket on the fifty-yard line of the Chicago Bears playoff game and it was twenty below zero with a windchill of fifty below would he still go to the game? If the answer is yes, then he is not exempt from Sukkah either. If there is mesiras nefesh for a football game, then there needs to be self-sacrifice for the Mitzva to eat and sleep in the Sukkah”.

Well here I was thirty-five years later experiencing a cold winter day at a famous football stadium not to watch a game but to share in an experience of achdus, ahavas Yisroel and Torah. Now, I must admit it was not nearly as cold of an example Rabbi Wein described, but coming from Southern California it definitely would be a challenging Sukkah question. But Rabbi Wein’s insight and analogy goes deeper than the surface. How is it that you see the “polar bear club” plunging into ice cold water in sub temperatures or football fans in Green Bay taking off their shirts during a game with blizzard conditions? The answer is commitment, tenacity, dedication and love of the game that they don’t even feel the cold. So too, at this Siyum HaShas ninety-two thousand people braved the weather and didn’t even feel the cold. I was thrilled to have finally understood the depth of a great sage’s words of wisdom albeit it took a while, that is another dimension of the beauty of Torah.

Another small episode but not insignificant by any means was brought out by a Halacha/law of Tefilla/prayer. In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 125:2 Mishna Brura daled says to keep your feet together during Kedusha because one needs to have more intense concentration to sanctify Hashem’s name. In this merit Hashem will settle a special sanctity upon the person from above. Through this act we fulfill the verse ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל and I will sanctify Myself among the children of Israel. The AriZ”L was very careful and scrupulous in this matter. Siman 95 discusses the reasons why we keep our feet together during the Amida and basically for any other part of sanctification. The Siyum HaShas venue was in the afternoon creating a situation that just about everyone would have to Daven Mincha at the event, this should not have presented a problem because Mincha (as well as Maariv) was part of the program. We are cruising on the Garden State Parkway, the Turnpike wasn’t bad, and all in all the traffic getting to the stadium was pretty light but as we got off to the service road it became a parking lot! Needless to say, the venue officially kicked-off at one o’clock we were walking into the building at about half past one. We started to hear the repetition of Mincha reverberating and booming from the Chazzan on the main loudspeaker. As the Shliach Tzibbur reached Kedusha everyone who was late running to get inside stopped cold in their tracks put their feet together and in unison responded with the Kedusha of everyone from inside as well all around the facility. As I looked around the only people who kept on walking were the security guards, building staff and the like. I can’t imagine what they were thinking as the foot traffic came to a standstill. Typically, these same gentile workers who are working the football games, concerts and the like never see a crowd of people who are late stop and not continue at whatever cost to run in to not to miss any part of the sport.

The ultimate reason is that we were not at the venue for ourselves, but rather to make a Kiddush HaShem, to sanctify God’s Holy name through Tefilla and celebrate Limmud HaTorah. The establishing of Torah and its importance can be highlighted and focused on from the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash the Torah states in Bereishis 46:28 "ואת יהודה שלח לפניו גושנה" “And [Yaakov} sent Yehuda to Goshen”. The Rabbis teach us the purpose of this mission was to establish a Yeshiva in Goshen so that upon the family settling in a new land, Torah will be available as a key component of their continued Jewish existence in the Galus/exile. I would like to share five key takeaways from Yakov Avinu’s message for all time and future generations when it comes to the learning of Torah. Keep in mind it was Yakov who was the יושב אהל the one who sat in the tent of Torah learning in his Yeshiva.

  1. Yehuda was able to set up the Yeshiva because the infrastructure and more important the desire for Torah learning was set in place years earlier by Yosef himself adhering to the Mitzvos and bringing up his own children Ephraim and Menashe in a Galus/exile situation.
  2. Yosef told his brothers don’t delay in getting their father. Many interpret the message in different ways. I would suggest there are different ways to build Torah, let’s not argue about which way, just let’s get it done.
  3. Yakov wanted a permanent place of Torah study. Kvius, is keeping something on an ongoing basis, daily Torah study perhaps something similar to the daily kinds of Torah available today, Nach Yomi, Daf Yomi, Mishna Yomi, something that is day in and day out never to miss a day.
  4. Yakov wanted a set time of learning as it gives structure to a person’s day. As Rav Hamnuna states in Sanhedrin 7a “a person’s judgement in the next world begins with the question did you learn Torah every single day?”
  5. It states in Avos D’Rebbi Nosson 13:2 the establishing of Torah is not only learning Torah but hearing and listening to Torah. Not only does one need to learn on a consistent basis, but he also needs to listen to Torah on a daily consistent basis.

The underlying message of Torah learning is that it’s our lifeline. A true commitment to daily Torah study of at least an hour a day has the potential to change the lives of individuals, families and communities. Let us all draw some kind of inspiration and commit our families made of individuals, mothers, fathers and children to support the love of Torah through establishing a new daily commitment to Torah study.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mikeitz - Consistency Increase Capacity; Consistency Breeds Success            29 Kislev 5780

12/27/2019 09:53:35 AM


A few years ago I took some flak for quoting a non-Jewish source as support for a dvar Torah message that I wrote. The intent was not, Chas V’Shalom/Heaven forbid to imply that we need a source outside of Torah to prove a point, especially where there are Torah sources to support everything. Rather, I used this quote as something contemporary, something everyone could relate to today. With this disclaimer, I present to you this week’s message!

Does Jerry Seinfeld still work so hard? Jerry Seinfeld’s response to this question is a master class in achieving incredible success. According to Jerry Seinfeld, his simple approach will never let you down.

Seinfeld is famous for his joke-writing routine. Early on he realized the only way to become a better comedian is to write better jokes -- and the only way to write better jokes is to write every day. So, he purchased a large wall calendar, hung it in his office, and every day after writing a new joke, he marked a red X over the date. He remarked, “After a few days, you'll have a chain; just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

Seinfeld further explained that he read an article that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, 'Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don't I know how to do this already?' The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop."

You can't control other people. You can't control timing. You can't control luck. When you think about it, there are very few things you can control except how hard -- and how consistently -- you work. So, if your definition of success includes, at least in part, traditional measures like wealth and professional achievement, consistent effort is the great equalizer.

In a few days thousands upon thousands of Jews from across the globe will be celebrating the seven-and-a-half-year journey through the sea of Talmud. The thirteenth Siyum HaShas will take place on January 1st, 2020. (Actual completion will be on Sunday January 5th) with venues in MetLife stadium in New Jersey to countless communities, Shuls and Batei Midrashim throughout the world. For those who are not familiar with this event, please Google it and be awestruck by the magnitude and the incredible effect Daf Yomi and the once-every-seven-and-a-half-year event has had on the Jewish people throughout the last century. There are many benefits to those who learn the daily page of Talmud and to those who support it. Recent interviews of wives and children of those who learn Daf Yomi explained the benefits they received and continue to feel through the Daf Yomi initiative in which their families participate. But to the individual, what is the primary benefit? Isn’t all and any Torah learning great? The answer is of course! All Torah learning is wonderful and great, but Daf Yomi and many other daily learning regimens give the student an increased capacity to learn as well as an increase in success in learning overall. Every day a person checks the box of another page, eventually to a chapter’s end, heading to the completion of an entire tractate. Ultimately, one looks back, realizing with awe that a number of Gemaros were knocked off, adding to the enthusiasm of beginning to complete one order after another and before long the entire Shas (Shisha Sidrei) is completed.

There is a tremendous amount of stamina necessary to carry this and other consistent processes through to completion. One can ask; “Is it because someone has the innate ability prior to beginning Daf Yomi which sets up the consistency required for day in and day out learning? Or is it an after-the-fact matter that once the person accomplishes the feat he recognizes the daily struggle and challenge which creates the perseverance? It is clear purpose and resolve that gives a person the drive to accomplish that which he sets out to do. This idea is found in the story of Chanukah and the episode of Yosef managing the food supply to Egypt and the other peripheral nations seeking out food during the region’s famine.

In this week’s Parshas Mikeitz the Torah states in Bereishis 42: 6 "ויוסף הוא השליט על הארץ, הוא המשביר לכל עם הארץ, ויבואו אחי יוסף וישתחוו לו אפים ארצה" “Joseph was like a dictator over the land, since he was the only one who rationed out food for all the people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground”. The Midrash Tanchuma 42:8 explains that Yosef himself sold the food, and why? Since he did not want to appoint anyone else to be responsible for the sale of food, he knew his family would eventually come down to Egypt to buy food. Therefore, he wanted to be the actual salesperson, enabling him to recognize his brothers when they arrived; they would receive food directly from him. The Ramban explains that it is not befitting a ruler of a land, second in rank to the king of Egypt, that he sell everyone a se’ah [a dry measure] or a half thereof of grain. It was for this reason that our Rabbis were impelled to say that Yosef had ordered at that time that all storehouses except one be closed so that he would be sure to meet his brothers. The Ramban continues to explain that this is in line with the literal interpretation of the passuk: it is possible that the people from all lands came before him, and he would question and investigate them. He would then command the officers to sell so much food to the people of that particular city. Therefore, it became necessary for his brothers, among all those who came from the land of Canaan, to come before him allowing him the opportunity to issue an order especially for them to support his father and family back home.

One could only imagine how busy Yosef would be as second in command to Pharoah. Yet, he felt it necessary to streamline the buying/selling of the grain supply to everyone and anyone who arrived to purchase. Not only was he directly involved in the sale, he was also interviewing and questioning those customers to determine what and how much food to sell them. This scenario undoubtedly took place seven days a week and well beyond regular business hours. Yosef did this on top of and in addition to his regular responsibilities. He was on a mission that required a daily focus and could not risk missing even one day for fear his family would show up that day, causing him to miss them. Each and every day that passed would ultimately bring them closer to seeing them. (Although Chazal tell us the Bnei Yisroel were the first to come from Canaan). Yosef was determined to meet up with his brothers. It would take a daily regimen on the part of Yosef to being the only person to mete out the task necessary to guarantee his success. He displayed consistency to every day and every customer. He was the only one who administered the distribution.

Perhaps it was Yosef’s tenacity and commitment that has been handed down to future generations of Jews to accomplish things, particularly in learning, to be consistent day in and day out, never missing a day, regardless of how many other things requiring attention. There is no question that this has contributed to our increased capacity to learn and retain much more than ever before and to feel and live the success for ourselves, our families, and all of Klal Yisrael. Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik!

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeishev - If There Is Life There Is Hope                                     22 Kislev 5780

12/19/2019 10:13:51 PM


As I flew back to the States, I contemplated this last trip as both long and short: short because it was only a week, but long in the sense of packing in history, family, cuisine, and most important, heritage. Flying from San Diego to Prague was uneventful, but the two and a half days were filled with sadness while visiting Tirezen and joy in seeing Jewish life rebounding only a few kilometers away in Prague. The continuation of the trip to Israel was highlighted by my first cousin’s son Eitan Adler, who piloted the plane from Prague to Tel Aviv. My wife and I immersed ourselves in Israeli society; we decided to open a bank account in Israel. As everyone promised, it proved to be a long, grueling ordeal thanks to much stricter banking laws due to money laundering concerns. Monday, the day I was leaving, I was sick in bed until I forced myself to get going by making one last trip to say good-bye to my father, have a quick dinner with my children, and attend my niece’s engagement party, all on the way to the airport.

If I could select the most important and meaningful part of this very busy and eventful trip, it was the second to last day. I picked up my father and had breakfast with him in Aroma. From there I are drove to Elazar, a town in the Gush which is about thirty minutes away in order to visit my aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother) who is recuperating from a fall that was so nasty it was touch and go whether he would recover. Without going into detail, my Aunt Libby and Uncle Eric had a major impact on me throughout my childhood years. I could never express the Hakaras Hatov - recognizing the good- they provided me. The visit could have lasted all day, but after an hour or so I headed to the Bet Shemesh cemetery and visited with my mother and brother a”h. At this point there was only one more person to visit in order to complete the circuit, my aunt Sonya, who like my father, is in late stages of dementia. So back I drove to the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in Jerusalem to the old-age home. These individuals are the patriarchs and matriarchs of our family. To be honest, the visit at the cemetery was the shortest of all. The total years of age including my mother is four hundred thirty-four.

In a sense, each person I visited with was at a different stage in life. My mother, a”h, living in the next world, my father and aunt, existing in this world, and my aunt and uncle, bli ayin hora, enjoying and living life to its fullest. With God’s blessing they should all live until one hundred and twenty years. It was very special for me - and I think for my mother a”h as well - to have visited with her older siblings, all of whom were instrumental in our lives.

The transition between life and death is instantaneous, but that is only the physical death. Human beings possess a certain sense of when something bad happens to a person, particularly when someone very close and dear to you passes on. The ability to know if someone actually left this world is found in this week’s Torah reading, Parsha Veyeishev. It is in this parsha that we read the story of Yaakov’s children selling their brother Yosef, making up a story that Yosef, the beloved son of Yaakov, was killed by wild beasts. Yaakov Avinu was completely distraught. The family attempted to comfort him, but to no avail. The Torah states in Bereishis 37:35 "ויקומו כל בניו וכל בנותיו לנחמו וימאן להתנחם, ויאמר כי ארד אל בני שאולה, ויבך אתו אביו" “And all of his sons and daughters got up to comfort him [Yaakov] and he refused to be comforted. He said: ‘I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.’ He wept for his son as only a father could. Rashi quotes the Midrash Rabbah stating, “No one accepts consolation for one who is alive although considered dead, since for a dead person, it was decreed that he should be forgotten from the heart, but not for one alive.” Why didn’t Yaakov interpret the facts that were presented to him and accept the fate that Yosef, his beloved son, was no longer among the living? The most famous answer given is because Yaakov had Ruach HaKodesh, Divine inspiration, giving him the feeling that Yosef was still alive.

Rabbi Shmuel Yaffe Ashkenazi in his commentary Yefei Toar to the Midrash, lends meaning to Rashi’s words. After being told of Yosef’s death, proclaiming that a wild beast must have eaten Yosef, tearing him to pieces, Yaakov Avinu stopped and thought a second time and said, “Itis just conjecture that I surmised he is dead, but I have not given up hope in my heart to find him!” Therefore, he refused to be comforted, keeping the memory of his son alive in his heart, never ceasing to seek him out. In other words, Yaakov claimed that if there is life there is hope, and if we don’t know when that end will be, there is always hope that a different conclusion may be reached despite the dire reality of the situation. Yaakov Avinu gives us perspective that we don’t have all the facts even though we think we do. There are countless medical stories of teams of doctors trying to convince a family that their loved one will never recover. I’m not saying we should be blinded and turn away from what modern medicine knows. Nonetheless, doctors and medicine are not a perfect science; they don’t know everything. Therefore, we turn to Halachik decisors to determine and evaluate information in order to decide.

It is sad visiting with relatives who many refer as individuals without a quality of life, but WE never write anyone off. If they are alive and breathing, there is hope that they may recover from whatever they are enduring. The lesson is a great one. In the case of Yaakov and Yosef, the hope of Yaakov to find Yosef alive was, in fact, true. Perhaps, if Yaakov had accepted the information and grieved over his son’s death, he may never have sought him out; he may never have seen him again. For me, visiting with older relatives who are seemingly not living a life, are nevertheless very much alive. We still pray for their full recovery as we once knew them. It is a test of Emunah - of faith in Hashem. We therefore never ever give up from the hope, the emunah, that things will get better. In the case when a person is no longer physically alive and the visit is at a cemetery, we still hope and pray that their life in the next world is eternally sweet and comforting.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


R’ Ashkenazi was born in Turkey in approximately 1525, but his name indicates that he was of Ashkenazic descent. Some believe that he was a cousin of R’ Mordechai Yaffe (author of the Levush) and of another R’ Shmuel Yaffe, the father of R’ Yoel Sirkes (the “Bach”).

R’ Ashkenzai’s teachers were the sages Mahari ben Lev, R’ Shmuel Saba, and R’ Shlomo Alkabetz (author of the poem Lecha Dodi). In 1564, R’ Ashkenazi was appointed rabbi of one of the neighborhoods of Costa (now Istanbul). Together with other rabbis of Costa, R’ Ashkenazi signed a number of decrees meant to strengthen observance of the prohibition on lending with interest. It appears that he also headed a yeshiva.

Rav Ashkenazi wrote many halachic responsa. Although his own collection of the letters – entitled Bet Din Yafeh – has been lost, many of his responsa have been printed in other collections. He also wrote other halachic works. However, by far his greatest fame rests on his monumental commentaries on various Midrashim, in particular Yefeh Toar on Midrash Rabbah. He also wrote Yefeh Anaf on Midrash Rabbah to the Five Megillot, Yefeh Nof on the Midrash to Sefer Shmuel and other works. Ashkenazi died on 19 Elul 5355 (1595)

Parshas Vayishlach - A Game of Life                15 Kislev 5780

12/13/2019 02:59:39 AM


Life today, at the dawn of the second decade of the twenty-first century, is markedly different than it was when I was a teenager forty years ago. For the most part, stereotyping anyone or anyplace is no longer acceptable. Despite this, stereotyping happens to be useful when explaining the differences and changes that have occurred over time. This is especially so when describing men’s and women’s experiences and opportunities regarding equality. With this disclaimer, I grew up watching sports which were all predominantly male. Most sports were ‘modified’ for girls, stereotyping the same sports played by boys to be more rough, rugged and vicious. There was, however, at one mirror-image game where the girls were clearly more aggressive and the boys were actually a bit more cowardly. The male version was called dodgeball and the female counter part was called Machanayim.

I’m not sure if all you reading this know what ‘Machanayim’ is; perhaps it was created and predominately played by religious Jewish girls. I personally never fully understood the game and only recently asked someone how it works. Machanayim is a souped-up version of dodgeball which requires greater killer instinct. Traditional dodgeball for boys is, by and large, a cowardly game consisting mostly of running for cover and retreating to the back line. As the other team threw the ball it lost velocity, making it catchable, getting the thrower knocked out of the game. Typically, when someone threw the ball, he would run to the back line as quickly as he could. In order to shorten the game, the teacher or counselor had to move the back line closer to the middle thereby narrowing the amount of area where one could run and hide.

Machanayim, a game played by girls in Jewish schools and summer camps, is similar to dodge ball. The name ‘Machanayim’ comes from the Hebrew word meaning "two encampments", or in this case, two teams. The Game Play is as follows: Players are divided into two encampments with the room split in two, the teams facing each other. The playing area does not extend all the way to the back of the room or court - the two far ends are left empty, and two volunteers, typically one of the better players from each team, are placed behind the opposing team. This player is called "the captain". In Machanayim team A has its captain on the other side of the field behind the back line of team B. Team B has its captain on the opposite side behind the line of team A. Each team can either throw the ball directly against their opponent with a face-to- face attack, or they can throw the ball to their captain, allowing the captain to attack the other team from behind. Essentially, the teams are constantly running back and forth because the back line can become the front line and vice versa. A player who thinks she can hide and hang out in the back is quickly faced by the captain of the opposing team, now directly in her face, forced to either try to catch the ball or run back again to what was previously the front. A ball is thrown into play at the start, although it is not activated (see below). The game is like dodgeball, in that players throw the ball at opponents. When player are hit, they are out. The difference between Machanayim and Dodgeball is that when a player is out in Machanayim, she are still part of the game. Rather than leaving the court, the player goes to the end area behind the opposing team, joining the original volunteer or captain from her team. The start of the game is the Activation: The ball is only eligible for use in getting others out once it has been "activated". To activate a ball, a player must throw it to any other player, on either team, without it hitting the ground. The ball is announced "alive" when it has been activated. As soon as the ball hits the ground, it is pronounced "dead" and needs resuscitation. Winning: When one team runs out of players (they are all behind the opposing team), the captain goes into the middle. The captain has more than one "life" (can be up to 3). Once the captain is out 3 times, the other team wins.

Earlier, I wrote that I am not sure who came up with this fancy game of Dodgeball or for that matter who named it Machanayim. Upon analyzing the game, one could conjure up the name be borne out of a separation of the two sides or two camps, each team against each other. But that simply could apply to dodgeball as well. I think the key in understanding the name is some or at least one member of each team/camp is on the other side leaving the camp split up. The word Machanayim is plural for the word ‘machaneh’ meaning camp.

In Torah study and commentary, we know there is a connection between one Parsha and the next. This is known as Smichos HaPArshios, loosely translated as either the closeness or the connection between one section (Parsha) and the one that follows. Last week’s Parsha ended Bersishis 32:3 stating "ויאמר יעקב כאשר ראם מחנה אלוקים זה, ויקרא שם המקום ההוא מחנים", "And Yaakov said, as I see this is a camp of Elokim, he called the name of the place Machanayim.” The very beginning of Parshas Vayishlah Bereishis 32:4 states: "וישלח יעקב מלאכים לפניו אל עשו אחיו ארצה שעיר שדה אדום" :“And Yaakov sent angels before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seir, in the plains of Edom”. Rashi in verse 2 explains there were angels of Eretz Yisrael that came to greet Yaakov Avinu to escort him into the land. Then in verse 3 Rashi says there were two camps, one from outside the land who came with Yaakov, and one from inside Eretz Yisrael who came to welcome him. In the next Parsha, Rashi, in verse 4 defines these Mal’achim as actual angels, leading us to believe that other commentaries would say they were just ordinary men acting in a messenger role.

From here we can infer that each camp was comprised of messengers that consisted of both ordinary and angelic beings - there was an ordinary camp that had a captain or messenger on the other side to help out from either direction. Whether the threat came from behind or from the front, the family was protected on all sides. Yaakov Avinu’s journeys throughout his life pave his children’s journeys in their future. Just as Yaakov had different kinds of protection and messengers from all sides, so too, we, the Bnei Yisrael, have angels from various sides looking after us, anticipating any danger in the future. There are signs that are sometimes very obvious and others that are hidden or unclear. From this perspective we should feel comforted, given the knowledge that we are protected, we are being looked after. It is up to us to focus in and recognize these signs, some simple and obvious, others unclear, complex. Regardless of the intensity, we all need to open our eyes and minds to what surrounds us. We need to look with deeper clarity and consider that perhaps this is my angel who is with me, shielding me and guiding my future.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeitzay - FYI or TMI                            7 Kislev 5780

12/05/2019 01:08:06 PM


Hey! You want to hear something? Why is it that we are tempted to hear newsy, kind of private or juicy things from others? Is it that we are just so nosy and want to hear all the gossip around town about everyone? Or maybe we just like to hear things that are informative, assuring a well-rounded view of the world. Information can be viewed as knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is a powerful tool. Knowledge can be used for good and… sometimes, as the cliché goes, we all know that a little knowledge can be dangerous. The reality is ‘information’ is a tool like any other and it depends upon who, where, when and why it is used.

Generally speaking, FYI and TMI are viewed as opposites. We enjoy hearing ‘FYI’, while ‘TMI’ causes us to cringe a bit, feeling unsure if we really want to hear all that. I remember the first time I heard the expression ‘TMI’. It happened to me. One Shabbos during the meal, I was entertaining our guests and must have gotten carried away. My wife abruptly interrupted, calling out “O.K., too much information!” After that, I don’t think I spoke again, opening my mouth only to insert a fork or a spoon. On the other hand, we are consistently fascinated with an ‘FYI’ spoken by a brilliant mind who shares a great amount of knowledge or information with others. Sometimes not enough is transmitted, while at other times it’s total overload! But taking a closer look, FYI can have different meanings and different kinds of messages. For example, a person will say ‘for your information’ in a condescending tone, implying that this is something you should know because you are oblivious to the forthcoming information. Other times, if you walk up to an information desk, they are pleasant and willing share information which you may have been able to research on your own. Nevertheless, they are typically calm and courteous when answering your questions. The Torah is full of information, but it is also a guide for life, helping us to navigate how to use the information it presents.

In this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay we read the story of Yaakov working for Rochel, initially for seven years so that he could marry her. Rochel’s father Lavan, however, has another plan in mind, switching Rochel for Leah, causing Yaakov to marry Leah instead. At this point Yaakov is devastated, willing to work another seven years more for Rochel. The Torah describes the sly tactics of Lavan, stating in 29:23: "ויהי בערב ויקח את לאה בתו ויבא אתה אליו ויבא אליה" : “In the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to [Jacob] who consummated the marriage with her.”

*Rav Eliyahu KiTov in his Sefer HaParshiyot writes that the sages explained during the seven years that Yaakov worked for Rochel, he [Yaakov] sent gifts to be given to Rochel, but her father Lavan gave them to his other daughter, Leah. Despite the fact that Rochel knew her father gave away the gifts which were intended for her but were given to her sister, Rochel remained silent. In Pirkei Avos Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel taught: “Myy entire life I grew up and was raised amongst the sages, and the only, the most correct thing I found for my body was silence. Rochel was steadfast in this principle, remaining silent despite the urge to cry foul. As a result her children, too, learned to remain silent. When Rochel saw her sister Leah receive gifts intended for her, she was silent. So too, Rochel’s son, Binyamin, was quiet. The ‘Ephod’ - the breastplate of the Kohein Gadol - had twelve gemstones. The twelve jewels in the breastplate were each, according to the Torah description, to be made from specific minerals, none of them the same as another, and each of them representative of a specific tribe whose name was to be inscribed on the stone. According to a rabbinic tradition, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved upon the stones with what is called in Hebrew: שמיר = shamir, which, according to Rashi, was a small, rare creature which could cut through the toughest surfaces. According to Rabbi David Kimhi and Rabbi Jonah ben Yanah, this Shamir was a stone stronger than iron. The stone that represented Binyamin was Jasper, in Hebrew . ישפהBinyamin knew of his brothers’ selling Yosef , but he remained silent. This is hinted to in his stone: by separating the word in the middle ,we get two words: ‘יש פה ‘: ‘he has a mouth, but he was silent’. Later on, in Shmuel Aleph 10:16, Shaul, a direct descendant of Binyamin, did not tell his uncle what Shmuel had said concerning the kingship. In Megilas Esther 2:20 Esther remains silent. She does not reveal her nation; she keeps quiet. The Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Vayeitzay 6 declares: Rebbi Yehuda says: The act of being silent is so great, that in the merit of Rochel being silent she merited to have a ‘double tribe’ - the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe. Why was she silent? Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains Rochel’s mindset. If I [Rochel] tell Yaakov that his gifts were given to Leah instead of to me, my father will become incensed; he will never allow me to marry him, promoting a greater distance between Yaakov,the great Tzadik, and me. Hashem said to her, “Because you were silent, I, Hashem will remember you at the right time.”

Rochel knew when it was important to give information (namely the signs that Yaakov gave her), to her sister Leah to avoid embarrassment. She gave information to her sister Leah that would be considered appropriate for her to know:, ‘for your information’ since you are going to need this.’ On the flip side, when it came to providing information about the misdirecting of Yaakov’s gifts by her father, Rochel believed that too much information would be damaging to her and her situation.

From our Parsha reading we clearly see an example of FYI when there is a clear purpose for sharing with someone else information that would otherwise remain private. We also see a clear example of TMI being withheld and demonstrated by the same person [in this case Rochel] because it would have caused her harm in the long run.

Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it is that specific data which answers the question of "what an entity is", therefore defining both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. Therefore, before sharing any information (despite how tempting it might be), consideration should be given and a cost/benefit analysis should be drawn. Once again, let us take a lesson from one of our foremothers on how and when we should or should not share information, no matter how much we want to give it over. Always keep in mind that Shtika/silence is the golden rule unless the information is clearly appropriate and needed for the other person to know.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Avraham Eliyahu Mokotow (22 March 1912 – 7 February 1976), better known as Eliyahu Kitov, was a Haredi rabbi, educator, and community activist. One of his works - Sefer HaParshiyot 1961–76 – is a rich, comprehensive set on the weekly Torah portions. Although it is mainly based on Midrash and Talmud, early Biblical commentaries, and Chassidic texts, the imprint of the author is noticeable, and many of his own insights are blended into the text.

Parshas Toldos - Yearbooks                                  1 Kislev 5780

11/28/2019 10:01:15 PM


The Jewish people are known as the ‘People of the Book’, due primarily to our everlasting connection to the Torah, studying and applying its wisdom to life and learning day and night for centuries. Even with the advent of the Internet and the availability of vast resources and texts online, we nevertheless prefer swaying back and forth, immersing ourselves in the traditional study method of learning from an actual sefer in front of us. Books serve many different purposes. They are a source of reference, deepening our knowledge, provide information, give us pleasure and enjoyment and even help us to improve our memory. Two stories, one related to me and the other to my wife, were recently told to us about a former classmate.

A few weeks ago, I received a call from someone in my past, and although I knew the name I could not place where I had known him. This individual let me know that was going to be in San Diego on business. He had the typical questions about davening times, food and lodging options. During the call, I gathered up the courage to ask the uncomfortable question of where we know each other from. He answered, that we went to high school together. My high school class had about one hundred twenty guys; we were not in class with every student. I don’t recall if we were ever in the same class, but I have no doubt that we were in the same grade. I could not picture what he looked like, and the picture I saw of him on his website did not help to connect me to his name. So, I thought to myself, “Hey, let me check our graduation yearbook!” Immediately, I reminded myself (as I’ve done for the past 38 years) that my class never published a senior yearbook, and therefore I could not look anything up in order to put a name together with the face.

A few days later a young man in his early twenties arrived in Shul on a business trip. He explained that he would be here for a few days . Something about him intrigued me. I am always cordial and welcoming to all of our guests, but rarely do I offer them more than a morning cup of coffee. In his case I felt a little different and knowing he was alone, I invited him for dinner. After Mincha /Maariv we walked home and had some small talk before sitting down to eat. The conversation turned to dating as we saw in him a potential shidduch for someone whom we know. He said that he is actually currently dating a girl and it was going well. He mentioned the high school she attended, and my wife exclaimed, “I went to that high school too!” Immediately the young man curiously responded that his mother also went to that same high school. He sheepishly asked my wife how old she was, and my wife keenly asked, “Well, how old is your mother?” At which point he stated his mother’s age, and my wife replied, “So am I,” and continued to ask what his mother’s maiden name was. Before he could even finish responding, my wife told him her first and last name. What were the chances of such a coincidence! Our guest then showed my wife a current picture of his mother, but it did not really look like her old self. At that, my wife jumped up, retrieved her high school yearbook, and lo and behold showed him his mother’s picture. My wife recognized an uncanny resemblance of this young man to her visual memory of his mother and was able to connect his facial features to those of his mother’s. At that point she was able to put a name to the face. 😊

The benefit of having a yearbook versus not having one was so striking to me as these two incidents occurred a week apart. The resemblance of mother and son were prominent and gave cheer to him. It is a great feeling to see the resemblance in siblings, of children to their parents and to other relatives as well. At times, it’s even necessary to prove that some are related to each other. This notion is can be seen in no greater place than in the Torah.

In this week’s parshas Toldos the Torah states in Bereishis 25:19 "ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם, אברהם הוליד את יצחק": “These are the chronicles of Isaac, son of Avraham: Avraham was Isaac’s father”. Rashi’s famous comment regarding the text “Isaac the son of Avraham,”reiterated,, “Avraham begot Isaac”, for the scorners of the generation were saying, “From Avimelech did Sarah conceive, since for many years she tarried with Avraham and did not conceive from him.” What did the Holy One Blessed Be He do? He formed the features of Isaac’s face to be similar to Avraham, causing everyone to attest, “Avraham begot Yitzchok”. And that is why it is written here, “Isaac was the son of Avraham,” for there is testimony that “Avraham begot Isaac.”

Harav Yerucham Asher Warhaftig zt”l explains the words of קלסתר פנים: a similar face of Yitzchok to Avraham not in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense. The spirituality of Yitzchok was on the same level of his father Avraham. There were no differences in their hashkafa/outlook and in their understanding of the Torah/God/and the world. They were on the same page in all areas of Jewish and secular life. A person was able to have the same, identical conversation with Avraham and then with Yitzchok, and vice versa. When someone spoke to one of them it was equivalent to speaking to the other one; that’s how similar they were.

In the name of a great Gadol, HaRav Dovid Solomon, this Rashi is quite difficult to understand. Avraham was called HaIvri because the entire world stood on one side of belief while he stood on the other side in belief of Hashem. Avraham fought with Nimrod, the most powerful man on earth, battled against the major kings of the world, fought against all of the idolatry and practices of the world and emerged victorious. Now Avraham faced scoffers and needed the help of God to come to his rescue and make his face like his son’s in a miraculous way. Why did Avraham need Hashem’s help? Why was it necessary for Hashem come to his aid? The answer is, even the best firefighter needs help against a raging fire. The sad truth is, the power and strength of Leitzanus, of mockery and joking about things, is so powerful it can even strip away Avraham Avinu’s impeccable record of chessed, emes and greatness to the extent people would accuse Avraham of not being the biological father of his son Yitzchok. The power or influence of Leitzanus, mockery, is so strong that even a great warrior and man of unbelievable chessed such as Avraham Avinu needs help to defeat it. Therefore, Avraham needed Siyata Dishmaya - Heavenly assistance - to repeal that kind of rhetoric that spreads like wildfire.

Today, we face a scourge of leitzanus not only from outside the Jewish camp but even from within. Leitzanus is a tactic to shrug off and throw down our responsibility to the learning of Torah andto fulfillment of Mitzvos. It’s a tactic a person uses to make himself feel better by mocking those who are committed to learning and fulfilling mitzvos. We need the spirituality and hashkafa of the previous generations coupled, with heavenly assistance, to eradicate the midda of leitzanus in order to allow each and every one of us to serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu, looking in the Yearbook of our fathers and mothers, modeling and living life as they did.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Chayei Sorah - Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network             23 Cheshvan 5780

11/21/2019 02:57:48 PM


Most Americans make decisions and arrive at conclusions based upon information that they hear, read or see through the media. For the average person, the political, religious, or sociological agendas are most profoundly affected through the the media outlets. I, like many Americans listen to soundbites of information from television reporters, internet news sites or the old-fashioned reading the daily newspaper. Perhaps one of the most dominating pieces of news in America today is the Impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States. I came to the realization that Americans are infatuated with instant gratification and will therefore listen to a sound bite or a twenty-second Youtube clip of something that is usually taken out of context rather than focus on reading or viewing an entire segment. Since we live our lives in the fast lane, we can only tolerate a minimum amount of information given over to us in a fast, efficient manner. The claim of not having enough time may or may not be true, but at the end of the day we are not getting a full picture of many things unless we apply ourselves to focus and pay careful attention.

Seeing myself getting caught up in the age of partial information, I decided to get a more wholesome picture of the Impeachment Inquiry of the POTUS. With great pain and consciously applied patience, I began watching the proceedings on C-SPAN. As an aside, if anyone wants to watch something boring and comical at the same time, tune into C-SPAN. I am not characterizing the network, but rather the content of the proceedings in the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee inquiry. I am not going to explain why I see it as comical and boring; I leave that to you to draw your own conclusions. One clear advantage of watching the entire proceeding (as opposed to a clip of someone’s statement) is to hear and see the statements of prosecutors and witnesses in full, from beginning to end, and quite often to hear them repeated. Hearing the full context of someone is eye-opening and refreshing particularly with regard to understanding the manipulation that occurs when words and situations are taken out of context.

Taking things out of context can easily lead to falsehoods, slander, mischaracterization, character assassination and so forth. Basically, nothing good really comes out of it. On the other hand, listening or reading something in its entirety rules out the option of tricking someone because there will be full transparency established through viewing or listening to direct testimony or statements in their entirety.

In Jewish law we know that judges need to hear the testimony directly from the witness. Only rarely, perhaps in cases involving the death of a husband which could allow the wife to re-marry would we ever take hearsay into account. Otherwise, under normal conditions we would need to hear or read first-hand about something. An amazing example of this principle is read about, learned, and reviewed in rare display in the Torah. Generally speaking, the Torah is very careful not only in the quality of words used but also in its quantity. Each and every word the Torah uses is measured and will have a reason which crystalizes why it was used. For the Torah to repeat an entire section, it must have great significance.

In this week’s Parshas Chayei Sorah the Torah relates the story of Avraham instructing Eliezer his servant to find a wife for his son Yitzchok. The Torah relates Eliezer deciding upon the sign that Hashem will show him which would lead him to believe this would be the woman Yitzchok should marry. After these signs become a reality, Eliezer meets Rivka who takes Eliezer back to her home to meet her family. It is at this time that Eliezer reviews the episode of how he came to select Rivka through a sign from God that she was, indeed, the one. In Bereishis 24:13 the Torah states: "הנה אנכי נצב על עין המים ובנות אנשי העיר יצאת לשאב מים": “I am standing here by the well, and the daughters of the townsmen are coming out to draw water.”

Rabbeinu Bachya points out that on the surface this entire passage appears to be merely a repetition of what the Torah has already described to us. The Rabbis in Bereishis Rabbah 60:8 taught that the “small talk of a servant of one of the forefathers was dearer to Hashem than some of the Torah insights of the children of the patriarchs”. This concept is demonstrated in the fact that the Torah goes on to repeat everything Eliezer did, whereas the Torah was brief in discussing very basic laws which would apply to the entire Jewish nation for all generations. There is no question the Torah goes out of its way to repeat the entire encounter, report on Eliezer’s prayer and the side deal Eliezer makes with Hashem, as well as include the dialogue Eliezer has with Rivka without having a specific and unique motive. The Torah is obviously teaching us something of great value and importance. All the details of the story are matters directly related to the success of Eliezer’s mission. Just one example: the Torah mentions the עין המים - the well of water - three times, each time varying the syntax a degree. Here in 24:13 the well is simply described as ‘a fountain of water’. In 24:42 Eliezer says, “I arrived this day at the well”. In 24:16 the Torah says of Rivka that ‘she descended to the well’. The Torah mentions the same well in three slightly different ways: עין, העין, העינה The exact reason is up for interpretation, but according to the Toras Chaim the word Ayin is the actual letter Ayin which has the numerical value of seventy. Taking the first time it is mentioned equals seventy plus two more times it is mentioned, the actual word is repeated giving another two (not 140), totaling seventy-two, representing the Shem HaMeforash, the explicit name of Hashem. Eliezer invoked this attribute in order to secure for Yitzchok the Zivug – the mate who was most appropriate for him.

The repetition of certain words and the repeating of an entire section demonstrates not only an importance and significance but even more importantly, it gives us accuracy. There is no room for us to guess and surmise the clear intention of Eliezer to complete his mission to find a wife for Yitzchok and show the dedication he had to Avraham, his master, to do his bidding. The repetition rules out any suggestion that Eliezer was perhaps acting on his own or not in the best interests of his master, Avraham, and Avraham’s successor, Yitzchok.

This portion presents an immense lesson to us to learn from. When it comes to public affairs, one is obligated to get the entire story, not just the bits and pieces and the attention-getting headlines. With satellite capabilities we are able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Truth, we must understand, is Emes which is one of the names of Hashem

Parshas Vayera - You Can, or You Can - Which One Is It?                       16 Cheshvan 5780

11/14/2019 12:40:59 PM


The three-year lease on my car is due to expire in the next few weeks. I am once again faced with questions that I faced three years ago, deciding how I should go about my next means of transportation. Three years ago, my car basically stopped working and was not worth fixing; the car had no notable value. In order to make a long story short, I decided to get a new car rather than a pre-owned or, as they used call it, a used car. Spending the entire day at the dealership, I had to decide whether to buy a new car and finance it or to try something that I’d never done before, to lease it.

Anyone who has had the privilege of dealing with a car salesperson knows how frustrating it is to speak with someone who keeps reminding you that he is helping you to get the best deal possible. For those who have never had this wonderful opportunity, let me give you a quick synopsis. After reassuring me over a dozen times that he is going to take really good care of me, the salesperson asked, “What am I looking for?” So, we reviewed the type of car and features I’d like, and then came the pop question, “What can I afford?” We went over the numbers, and eventually, after waiting a good amount of time, I was told that the vehicle I want could not be had for the amount I wanted to spend. More time went by and I was blandly told that it was not possible to ‘give’ the car away for the price I wanted to spend, basically declaring that they would be ‘losing money on the deal’. Really?! Then there was the time I was ‘hondling’ with the salesperson and, as negotiations were breaking up, the manager was brought in ‘to see what he could do’ to make the deal work. As I walked out the door, the manager said to me, “What if I can close the deal for this price?” I said I’d think about it and then returned a little while later. I said to the manger, “O.K, I can do it for that price.” I thought to myself that now, finally we’ll have a done deal and be out of there in no time with my new car.” SCREEEEEEECH! STOP! He says to me, (the chutzpah) “I did not say I can do it for this price; all I said was if I can give it to you for this price, would it work?” At that point, I turned around went to the other dealership and completed an agreement there. That slight nuance of the word can make or breaks the entire negotiation.

While the power of suggestion is often deceiving, as described above, but it can also work as a measure for promoting something positive, useful and helpful. A statement or question can be understood from opposite perspectives - from good to bad or from right to wrong. *Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter from Slobodka, depicts the scenario between Avraham and the city of Sodom. Avraham Avinu was the foundation of Chessed (Kindness) in the world; Sodom, the opposite of everything Avraham stood for, was his adversary. The people of Sodom were the the epitome of callousness and rudeness sprinkled liberally with antipathy. They intentionally intensified their disservice to their neighbors and to each other.. Through their wickedness evil actions, they stood in complete opposition to Avraham. All the goodness that Avraham planted in the world was uprooted by the Sodomites and Amorites. One might conclude that if God considered getting rid of Sodom, the nemesis of Avraham, Avraham would be ecstatic!

Let’s look at the wording and language Avraham uses when speaking to Hashem:

In this week’s parshas Vayera the Torah states in 18:22-24: "ויפנו משם האנשים וילכו סדומה, ואברהם עודנו עמד לפני השם. ויגש אברהם ויאמר, האף תספה צדיק עם רשע. אולי יש חמשים צדיקם בתוך העיר האף תספה ולא תשא למקום למען חמשים הצדיקם אשר בקרבה" :: : “The men turned from where they were, and headed toward Sodom; Avraham was still standing before God. He came forward and said, ‘Will you actually wipe out the innocent together with the guilty? Suppose there are fifty innocent people in the city. Would You still destroy it, and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty-good people inside?’ Avraham’s question to God - will you actually wipe out the innocent with the guilty - is simply understood that the righteous did nothing wrong. Why do they deserve to die with the others? Why should there be collateral damage and punishment? When the angels left, Avraham stood in front of God. Would he have davened that the wicked should be wiped out and the Tzadikim should be left unscathed? If Avraham had done that then he would have been no better than the people of Sodom. Rather, he stood in front of Hashem and prayed not to destroy the wicked so the righteous will remain, but, on the contrary, to daven that because there are possibly fifty righteous people, Hashem would not destroy anyone – not the wicked and not the righteous. Avraham remained truthful to his beliefs and the to Torah and Mesorah of goodness. He did not pray for the downfall of Sodom, but looked instead to the strength of the good people so as to give the wicked the opportunity too change their ways from bad to good and therefore to survive.

The Amidah that Avraham had by standing in front of Hashem is the Amidah that we have today - to bring more goodness and to not necessarily destroy the people who do bad. Instead, we daven for them to change their ways. Avraham was asking how can you, God, wipe out the innocent with the guilty? Change the ‘how can’ to ‘can you’ really destroy the wicked if you have Tzadikim along with them? The answer, of course, would be no. Avraham rhetorically expressed that not only are You, God, not going to destroy the righteous people by exclaiming ‘how can you’ but stating that You, God, can save the evil because of the good. The Rokeach explained that האף תספה is not a language of anger but rather an expression of bewilderment and surprise. Avraham, through prayer, was able to change God’s disposition of Din/Judgment to Rachamim/Mercy. That is the power of Tefilla.

When we are confronted with a challenge and we ask ourselves ‘can we’ the answer is ‘we can’. It all depends upon our attitude. If we learn from Avraham that Chessed overcomes the evil even of Sodom, we ‘can’ change a situation regarding we view such challenges and direct our questions and prayers accordingly.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel (1849 Russia – 1927 in the British Mandate of Palestine), also known as Nota Hirsch or Natan Tzvi Finkel, was an influential leader of Orthodox Judaism in Eastern Europe and founder of the Slabodka Yeshiva, in the town of Vilijampolė (a suburb of Kaunas). He is also known by the Yiddish appellation der Alter ("the Elder") and as the Alter of Slabodka. Many of his pupils became major leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the USA and Israel.

*Not to be confused with Nosson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir.

Parshas Lech Lecha - The Time Change           9 Cheshvan 5780

11/07/2019 01:59:45 PM


Two weeks each year people are a little off their game. One week a person does not have enough time and the next week there’s a little bit too much time. This past Sunday most American changed their clocks to standard time, “gaining “an hour to the week. Personally, I try to be as systematic as possible, changing the clocks all at the same time, albeit for those who know me, different clocks are set at different times, some five minutes fast, some fifteen minutes fast, while others are set to show the actual, real time. Old-fashioned clocks and watches need to be changed manually, but our satellite-recognizing timekeepers automatically adjust to the time change. However, there are a few clocks in the “no time” zone that can, may, or are supposed to change by a receiving signal which does not always work. To add to this confusion, there was a question many in our state of California addressed: “Aren’t we now one of the states that voted not to change but rather to remain on Standard Time? If so, what happened?”


California voters approved Proposition 7 to end Daylight Saving Time on November 6, 2018. So…why did we still change our clocks this past weekend? It's a fairly straight- forward answer with a not-so-simple solution. The California Legislature needs to get a bill passed, and then Congress needs to approve it. So, what's next? The bill is currently pending a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congress has until December 2020 to act on these bills.

Not all states observe Daylight Saving Time, and by law, they are not required to do so.. Arizona and Hawaii don't currently observe DST, and Indiana only started observing it in 2006. According to a recent Associated Press poll, most people across the country want to stop the twice-a-year ritual of clock changes. There are dozens of other polls with mixed results whether to switch or remain and to remain on which one.

This past week someone manually turned the atomic clock in Shul back one hour. Looking up at the time only a few minutes later, the numbers had reverted back to the old time. People in the room were quite puzzled as to why it didn’t remain with the new time, especially when it should pick up an atomic signal to correct itself! At that point someone made a comment that maybe it’s time to change the clock. Someone else responded that we tried to change the clock, but it does not want to change! Obviously, the correct wording should be ‘adjust the time’ or just go buy a new clock. Nevertheless, the idea of ‘change’ the clock, meaning adjusting the time or replacing the apparatus, is something we all face as we transition through different stages of life. This is most apparent in people who “change” their names to change their destiny.

In this week’s Parshas Lech Lecha the Torah in Bereishis 17:5 states: "ולא יקרא עוד את שמך אברם, והיה שמך אברהם כי אב המון גוים נתתיך" “ - “No longer shall you be called Abram. Your name shall be Abraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations”. Then, in 17:15, it states: "ויאמר אלוקים אל אברהם, שרי אשתך לא תקרא את שמה שרי, כי שרה שמה"- - - “God said to Abraham, Sarai your wife, do not call her by the name Sarai, for Sarah is her name”. Immediately after the change Hashem says to both Abraham and Sarah, “I will bless you and increase you”. The Gemara Brachos 16b explains: that only the three are called the Avos (the fathers) and only the four are called the Imahos (the mothers). Who are the three? We know now they are Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, but why not start with someone else, like Terach, Avraham’s father? The Torah describes Abram as old, being ninety-nine years old after Yishmael turns thirteen, which now brings the birth of Yitzchok closer. Even if we didn’t want to have Terach as one of the ‘fathers’, he IS the biological father of Abram and we can’t change that link. In fact, going up the ladder tracing the generations from Terach to Noach and further back to Adam, each and everyone one is referred to as the Avos. In the words of Chaza”l, is it possible to take a sharp knife and sever the generation between Abram and Terach so that the chain of three starts with Abram, continuing to Yitzchok and Yaakov? Apparently, when Hashem decided to plant the vineyard of Israel, He did it in a way that was intended to break the link from Terach to his son Abram, starting with Abram as the first and continuing to make the three with his son Yitzchok and his son Yaakov, thereby creating the Avos of three as we know it to be. But how?

When birth occurs naturally, the father is known to the child as his father, and the father of the father is known as the grandfather. In the chain of family tree, the child is the trunk at the bottom, the body is the father, and the branches of the tree are formed by the grandfather and further back through the previous generations. But there was one man who was older and, with his wife, no longer had the ability to have children in the ‘natural’ way. Hashem intervened and miraculously reverted both the man and his wife, Abram and Sarai, to their youth, enabling them to bear children. Since the chain of natural birth stopped with Abram, he was no longer directly connected to his father Terach, because if Abram was unable to have a natural child then the connection to the grandfather and previous ancestors no longer existed. Therefore, Hashem waited until Abram and Sarai were older, well past child-bearing age, and performed a Neis/miracle. Hashem caused them, in a sense to be reborn. A new beginning was created with Abram and Sarai and their Koach, their strength to have the ‘natural’ child would continue to Yitzchok and then to Yaakov, establishing the three Avos.

To demonstrate this nais/miracle to the new potential parents, Hashem changed their old physical bodies to new, younger ones. When a new child is born, the baby is given a name; to begin their new life, Hashem changed the names of both Abram and Sarai to Avraham and Sarah - new identities completely disconnected from Terach and Haran, the fathers of Abram and Sarai. Avraham and Sarah experienced a change in body and soul; their physical qualities changed from old back to young, and spiritually through the slight change of their names by the mere addition of a letter. . In addition, they needed brand new biological clocks that gave them the opportunity to have children specifically in the miraculous form to establish the chain and link of the Avos beginning with Avraham and not from Terach, his father.

All of us need to constantly review and evaluate who we are and where we are going as we progress through our lives. Sometimes we need to adjust and ‘change’ who we are in a slight manner - a little more or a little less - regarding how we go about our lives. That is the slight hour change, keeping the general time and connecting it to who we are as people. On the other hand, (no pun intended) sometimes we need to ‘change the clock’, experiencing a complete, new, thorough overhaul, putting completely new systems into place. Hopefully by recognizing time and place of where we and our families are, we can ‘change’ the clock and be right on time every time!

Parshas Noach - The Key to Kindness               3 Cheshvan 5780

11/01/2019 09:10:06 AM


The Mishnah explains that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim - the study of Torah, prayer and acts of kindness. Two of the three, studying Torah and Tefillah – prayer - can be done singularly, by an individual. There’s no question that prayer should be done within a Tzibur , with others together, and learning should be with a study partner with a place of study or a Bais Midrash setting. On the other hand, the mitzva of performing or participating in a Chessed, a kindness, requires at least one other individual, in order to perform the kindness for that person.. Without the other person it is impossible to complete the Chessed. The old cliché, ‘it takes two to tango’ first applied to the Mitzva of Chessed long before the dance was created. Unfortunately, the Mitzvos that are dependent upon one another are more difficult to do. In contrast, Mitzvos that are within our purview are typically within our control. We decide whether to do the mitzva or not; I can daven, choose when or even whether to learn, but it is impossible to complete the Chessed alone; I, the giver, cannot also be the recipient. Alternatively, I the recipient, require the giver.

During the month of Elul, the time of year we prepare for the days of Awe and Judgment, I found myself in Lakewood N.J. a small city with many observant Jews. In my view, a smaller Jewish community has fewer opportunities for Chessed than a larger one. This is not to say there aren’t needs in smaller communities, but the issues and needs multiply as the population expands. For example, we here in San Diego may see one ‘meshulach’/charity collector a week while in the shul where I davened in Lakewood had between fifteen and twenty such individuals every single morning. A second example of simple giving would be when a person might need a car ride because his or her car broke down or is in for repairs. In Lakewood, I could drive around all day as an unpaid ‘Uber/Lyft or taxicab driver, picking up Jews in need of such assistance all day long six days a week. Many families only have one vehicle, and due to the nature of the daily yeshiva schedule, school age children, young marrieds, the elderly, are always hitch-hiking to and from Yeshiva. In these two examples we clearly see opportunity to perform a chessed.

The following is the opinion of this writer,, so I will speak for myself as I’m not sure others feel the same way. Unfortunately for me, when I see collectors scurrying around the Shul collecting, a million thoughts ranging from why do they have to disturb our davening to why can’t they just get a regular job run through my mind. Regarding giving a rides to those caught without a needed car, I think to myself, why didn’t they plan this out? Why couldn’t they arrange to get assistance ahead of time? This is actually the reality of how some people operate, the looking for a ride IS their plan, someone collecting IS working, this is his livelihood. This has been the typical way I viewed these situations in the past. Now it was Elul, the month of introspection, a time to become that better person and develop an attitude towards others as we want God to have toward us. Therefore, I re-focused and analyzed these and other situations to focus on the potential Chessed and make it an actual, a real kindness. This did not require any physical change as to how I would do something, but rather it is a small change in personal attitude and how I approach this Mitzva, which is - no question - a challenge.

The key to kindness is to think about the situation beyond what we see in front of us. Forget about the kid I’m giving a ride for or the man going to yeshiva as being late or disorganized. Think instead about the result: it was because of me that this particular individual was abe to be where they needed to be, hopefully on time rather than late. This person will be able to daven a better Shacharis because I got him there on time. When I give some tzedakah to the collector, I don’t think about him but about the children he’s raising money to help who will have a decent Shabbos dinner or the money to purchase needed shoes or clothing, or the ability to purchase needed medication. By giving the extra dollar, that dollar will contribute to someone’s family to pay down excessive bills. We must realize that the Chessed we do goes far beyond the immediate person in front of us. Chessed, by definition of what giving is really all about, goes far beyond the current situation; that is the key to overcoming those challenging thoughts. This strategy is also found in the Torah for overcoming adversity.

In this week’s parshas Noach the Torah states in Bereishis 7:14 "המה וכל החיה למינה וכל הבהמה למינה וכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ למינהו וכל העוף למינהו כל צפור כל כנף": “They came along with every separate kind of beast, every separate kind of livestock, every separate kind of land animal, and every kind of flying creature - every bird and every winged animal”. The midrashim relate it was not a peaceful year for Noach’s family, who never had time to lie down and sleep for even one full night during the entire twelve-month period of the Mabul. They were responsible for all the thousands of birds, wild animals, domestic animals that had to be fed - each according its own schedule. Some ate by day others by night; it was a 24/7 operation for only eight people. The midrash Socher Tov 1:12 and Midrash Rabbah 28:9 teaches that while Noach was in the Teivah he constantly davened to Hashem and asked to be delivered from this prison; his soul was tired of the smell of lions, bears and panthers. Hashem said to Noach, “It is My decree that you shall not leave this confinement for a full twelve months!”

Rav Eliyahu Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu asks what was the purpose of Hashem assigning to Noach and his family this overly-burdensome task of keeping all of the animals alive? Rav Dessler answers that the destruction of the world was due to Chamas/robbery motivated by people’s ego.. To become the builders of the new world, Noach and his family had to work on themselves, cultivating within each of them the opposite trait. The opposite of taking is giving, the opposite of taking what you think is yours is to give back that which is yours. The taking from someone else can only be corrected by giving from yourself. These are the traits of kindness and mercy upon which form the basic principles of Chessed. When a person gives selflessly to a cause, he benefits through inner growth. Noach and his family needed to learn to see beyond the present, beyond the difficult and repulsive job they had in the Ark. The only way to see it through was to investigate the future; their efforts maintained the existence of animal life as was known before the flood.

The key to Chessed is seeing within, looking deeply and understanding that what is beyond the challenge that is in front of us lies beauty of giving beyond what we are able to see. Let us all master the Key to Chessed is having vision and understanding that our acts are not limited to the here and now but will have ripple effects to many others beyond the one person in front of us.

Parshas V'Zos HaBracha/Bereishis - The End is Actually the Beginning      26 Tishrei 5780

10/25/2019 09:38:48 AM


When I was a Bachur, an unmarried Yeshiva student, a friend and colleague of mine, Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, asked me to help lead davening on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a Shul in Jersey City, N.J. At the time, I was not fully acquainted with the nusach (tunes or proper liturgy) of Yamim Noraim, the High Holiday tunes. It was recommended that I ask Cantor Jack Rosenbaum, Of Blessed Memory, to teach me the nusach. With trepidation I called him, and he invited me over to his home to discuss the matter. At the time I didn’t have any extra money to pay for the lessons and if I had to pay, I would essentially use the money I would earn from davening over the holidays and therefore not really come out ahead. He asked me how much I could pay, but before I was able to respond, he said I will make you a deal! If I would agree to do Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum (read the Torah portion twice and the commentary Onkelos once), he would give me the lessons at no charge. I immediately agreed and not only learned how to daven for the High Holidays, which was a skill set I would use later in my career, I also learned through the Torah that year.

A day before Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah I received a text from a father of one of my congregants who was spending this Simchas Torah in Israel visiting a different child. Last year he was here with his wife visiting his son and his family here in San Diego. Here is the exact text he sent me: “Last Simchas Torah, you challenged the tzibur (congregation) to take on Shnayim Mikroh v’Echad Targum. Today, B”H, I finished my first cycle. Thank you for the challenge.” That text totally made my Yom Tov one of the best. I realized how, in so few words of challenge and inspiration, it’s possible to create so much Torah learning. I’m not aware of any others who may also have been moved take on this challenge, but, even if it was for only one person, it sent shockwaves through me and in heaven because I know it helped him to grow.

The Kabbalists were awestruck at the veracity and enormity that is accomplished through reviewing SHM”T (Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum). The sefer Yesod Shoresh Va’Avoda and the Chasam Sofer in his Chidushim to Chullin says that by reading SHM”T, a person removes the small shell fragments that stuck on the Torah when Moshe smashed the Luchos/Tablets. The shell fragments are an impediment to fully grasping the depth and understanding of the Torah due to the negative influence of the smashing of the luchos. Reviewing the Sedra in this fashion removes that barrier. It is amazing how the simple reading of the verses has such force, allowing us to open up the deeper meaning of the Torah. The Shlah HaKadosh in tractate Shabbos, the Megaleh Amukos in Parshas Kedoshim, the Kaf HaChaim in 285:32, relates in the name of the kabbalists through reading of SHM”T that a person merits and prepares himself for the Neshama Yesierah, the extra soul we are given for Shabbos. That second neshama/soul is called אדם‘Adam’ which is a praise and crowning of all the names of mankind. Some other names such as ‘Ish’ or ‘Enosh’ are the simpler names, but the name אדם is the most noted. A hint to this is found in the verse Bereishis 2:10 "ויקרא האדם שמות לכל הבהמה ולעוף השמים ולכל חית השדה ולאדם לא מצא עזר כנגדו" - and he called them (all the animals) by their names, as Adam was given the task and charge to name every creature by knowing its essence. Adam had this special wisdom that gave him the ability to name the animals based upon their inner nature and essence. I would suggest it was through the neshama yeseirah that Adam had extra wisdom through which he was able to name the animals. We often hear that the essence of a person comes from his Neshama - his soul. Therefore, Adam was able to use his neshama to identify the other ‘neshamos’ of the animals (not meaning that animals actually have a soul but rather meaning their essence). Every Shabbos we receive an additional soul in its raw state. We decide if, how and when we will use it for something positive or negative, whether we will use it to give us more strength, wisdom, courage to make proper decisions for that coming week, or choose to do nothing with it. Week in and week out we take on the role of Adam HaRishon and can identify the essence of beings, situations and life’s experiences.

The very last parsha of the Torah וזאת הברכה - and this is the blessing that Moshe gave to the children of Israel - is the ability to take something from its end and start again. The Chasam Sofer writes that the last three words of the Torah Devarim 34:12 states לעיני כל ישראל - in front of all the eyes of the Jewish people - בראשית ברא אלוקים “In the beginning God created the world”. The Gemara Sotah 14a quotes Rav Simlai “the Torah begins with Chessed/kindness and ends with Chessed. In Bereishis, after Adam and Chava ate from the forbidden tree, they had knowledge of their nakedness. So, God, with kindness, fashioned leather clothing and dressed them to spare them from embarrassment. The Torah in Devarim 34:6 ends with a Chessed that it was God who took care of Moshe after he died, and He buried him [Moshe]. Reb Yerucham Levovitz, the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, said from here we see that the essence of the entire Torah is Chessed/kindness and caring for others as illustrated by Hashem in the beginning and in the end.

As the Torah begins with the six days of creation, it wasn’t until the seventh day that Shabbos, the day of rest, was created. One might question and think it is odd, why on a day of rest would you would have another neshama? The simple answer is Shabbos is resting after the week and preparing for the new week. Shabbos is a day of rest from creativity, but not a day of rest to nourish and fill the extra neshama that we will use in its wisdom for the upcoming week. Shabbos is the actual last day of the week, but it is preparing us for the new coming week. So too, at the end of the year we immediately look forward to the new year and what we will accomplish. We just concluded a seven-week period of feeding and nourishing our souls. Baruch Hashem I see many in our kehilla who are taking the old or last part and using it to continue nourishing the new year and new winter season, taking the spirituality of the neshamot yeseiros and applying it to nurture and continue the growth from that which was imbedded in them these past two months. I truly hope and pray that we do not look at the concluding of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Chol Hamoed, Hoshana Rabba, Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah as the end, but rather take all of this beauty which has nourished our souls to lead into the new beginning of a prosperous year, both physically and spiritually.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas HaAzinu - Hashem Hashem, The All Merciful One       12 Tishrei 5780

10/11/2019 08:43:37 AM


There is a standard tradition of asking for mechila – forgiveness - from one another before Yom Kippur. Typically, it is easier to ask forgiveness from someone who isn’t that close to you, such as an acquaintance or a person whom you are friendly but are not really close.. There are the other people who are very good friends and still others who are even closer, such as family. Throughout the year we are more likely to have run-ins and disagreements with people with whom we have close contact throughout the year. . Typically, shortly before Yom Kippur,, someone will approach you to ask for mechila/forgiveness. Immediately we respond, “Of course I forgive you.” Then, without missing a beat, ,we respond by asking forgiveness from from them. But I think there is one group of people who present difficulty with regard to this pleasant two-way forgiveness refrain. For this group, asking for mechila is only a one-way street. Let me explain. Children need to honor and respect their parents. They need to ask forgiveness; the parents do not have to ask forgiveness from a child. (A Rebbi may be in the same category as a parent).

As time and life goes by, not everyone is able to ask their parents forgiveness for a variety of reasons. One obvious reason is because the parent is no longer in this world physically. However, there are situations when a parent is here physically, but mentally the parent is in a different place. In my case my mother a”h is in the next world, and my father Y”BL, who is in this world but is not really aware of what’s going on due to his lack of sight and hearing, cannot respond. There’s no question that as a son I can be doing more for my father. I can call more often, visit a few more times a year, and overall be a better son. On Erev Yom Kippur, as I wished my father a Gut Yom Tov, I asked him forgiveness for anything that I may have done wrong to him or for anything I may not have done correctly for him. This tradition is something we do every year, but this year felt a little different. This past year has seen a decline in my father’s mental ability and diminishing recognition of the people around him. This is in addition to the fact that he is so far away. He is only able to hear a voice on Skype or telephone. Up until this year there was some type of reply, usually a ‘yes’ to the forgiveness from my father before Yom Kippur, but this year was different. There was no reaction after we spoke. No ‘yes’. This made me very nervous. Perhaps he does not forgive me for some of the issues I mentioned earlier, or perhaps there is something else completely different, something that I am unaware of. I keep thinking to myself, perhaps he heard me ask for mechila, and this time he is not ready to forgive me!

Two quick points came to mind, and I came to the realization that I should not be nervous after all. First, I know he doesn’t hear me, and I know his memory is compromised. I know this and I deal with this throughout the entire year. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I KNOW my father, and despite having gotten angry a few times in his life, he is an extremely forgiving person. There’s no reason for this beautiful characteristic to stop now. My father’s kindness always came through; despite becoming angry, his strong compassionate nature would shine through. Therefore, I felt confident that despite the silence after my request there is no concern that his merciful side would not take over the Din/judgment. This relationship of a parent to a child is uniquely powerful in the sense that the father always has compassion for his child - under any circumstances. We may see the mercy and kindness by a human parent, but does it exist with our Father in Heaven?

In this week’s Parshas HaAzinu the Torah states in Devarim 32:39: "ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלוקים עמדי, אני אמית ואחיה מחצתי ואני ארפא ואין מידי מציל" - “But now see! It is I! I am the [only] One! There are no [other] gods with Me! I kill and give life! If I crushed, I will heal! But there is no protection from My power!” Rabbi Shimon Betzalel Neuman, in his sefer Peninim Yekarim, asks why the verse repeats the word ‘Ani’? He explains, based upon a Rashi in Parshas Vaera Shmos 6:2, whereby God spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am YHVH (Hashem). Whenever God uses the name ‘Hashem’ with regard to a Mitzvah, it’s an expression that He guarantees, is believed that He will pay the reward for the fulfillment of the Mitzva. Likewise, whenever the name of God is used in reference to punishment for a sin, the word Hashem is also used. This is because He is believed to pay a price to the individual for sinning. But this terminology begs the question: Why, by dishing out a punishment, do we use the term Hashem - the YHVH which is used exclusively as an understanding of mercy and not judgment? The classic,general rule is that the name Elokim is reserved for judgment, while the name Hashem is used to describe mercy. Here, by serving a punishment, shouldn’t we use the term Elokim and not Hashem?

The answer is that even when God punishes, it is done with a sense of rachamim/mercy. This directly connects to the way a loving father at times needs to punish his child; it is done in the most merciful way possible. This is what is meant when we recite the verse in Pesukei D’Zimra Tehilim 135:14 that Dovid HaMelech took from Haazinu 32:36 "כי ידין ה' עמו": “For Adonay judges His people”. Even at a time when God is judging and meting out punishment, He does it by mixing in Rachamim/mercy and actually removes the Din/judgment, leaving mercy. The proof is nuanced in the words, “But now see it is I. It is I; this is a guarantee or security that I, Hashem the merciful God Who will pay the reward and warn of the punishment. It is I [Hashem the merciful God] who is believed to pay. It is I, Hashem, and I alone; Elokim is not with me even when teaching or recording the idea of punishment. It is only Hashem and not Elokim.

As Yom Kippur passes we now try to live our life knowing that Hashem forgave us and that the character of mercy overcame the character of justice. As we enter into this new season heralded by the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we can feel a sense of security and compassion that is represented in the symbolism of the Sukkah. As we will sit in the Sukkah next week, we affirm the notion that God judged us with Hashem and mercy and not Elokim with judgment. Sitting, dwelling in the Sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur is a testament to our belief that we have gained atonement through mercy and not through harsh judgment. Let us bask in the glory of Hashem and let His mercy shine upon us and continue to guide and lead us throughout the year.

Parshas Vayeilech / Shabbos Shuva - Watch Your Step      5 Tishrei 5780

10/04/2019 09:02:58 AM


Dictionaries typically provide an array of definitions to words The Oxford English Dictionary, granddaddy of all English-language sources of word definitions, also gives in-depth etymologies – detailed histories of the derivation of every word included its vast word . In addition to all dictionaries, there is also our personal dictionary in which each of us describes or explains something. For example, in my personal dictionary under the word “stubborn,” my definition is: when a person hears a rattling noise and ignores it, or when a car is not driving properly, simply disregards it. The ultimate for me is when I have an ache or pain, or something more severe and completely discount it, declaring that it’ll go away… eventually. Wel, I experienced something that fits this description in my dictionary. A few weeks ago my wife and I traveled to NY for a wedding and before returning home we did some extensive walking in lower Manhattan visiting “Ground Zero”. Upon my return, I felt an intense soreness in my foot which I initially ignored (of course), eventually attributing the continuous, gnawing discomfort to dancing at the wedding and the walking around town. My foot was swollen a bit and after diagnosing myself I took some Motrin and rested a bit overnight, feeling good-to-go the next day. But, alas, it was not getting better, and as each day wore on and I bravely continued to walk around, the soreness grew stronger each day. Finally, as Rosh Hashana was approaching, I began to think about this foot of mine more seriously and went to see my doctor who gave me, among other things, an authorization slip to have my foot X-rayed. Being rather busy, I pushed off getting the X-ray for a few more days, reasoning, “Why should I spend so much money on a co-pay for the x-ray?” I overcame my clarity of reasoning and went to get the X-ray. The technician told me, “You are going to have to see the doctor!”

I could not believe that I broke my foot! I did not remember any time when I may have banged it or fell or even twisted it, yet… x-rays don’t tend to lie. Initially, the doctor said my foot might require being surgically repaired. After my proclaimed disbelief, accompanied by my continuous questioning of the need to have surgery, the doctor managed to maneuver the bone, trying his best to help me avoid surgery if he could help my foot to heal externally. There were many thoughts and messages going through my mind at the time, but mostly, I was and still am in denial that I broke a bone! Let’s be real; it does not hurt that much. In fact, I have no pain at all. Besides a little swelling, I don’t see anything wrong with my broken foot compared to the other one. There’s just a little discomfort…

There is a teaching about the fact that we tend to attribute any bad things or omens that happen to someone at the end of the year as a good sign, indicating that we have completed any punishment on the previous year’s account and therefore can hopefully go into the New Year with a clean slate. I hope for me that is definitely the case! However, this also set my mind in place for the upcoming Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashana To Yom Kippur. We read on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur the prayer Unesaneh Tokef. A line of deep concern is וְתִזְכֹּר כָּל הַנִּשְׁכָּחוֹת: You remember all that is forgotten. In a Tefillah “L’Eil Orech Din” we say, “The one who scrutinizes secrets”: "לצופה נסתרות ביום דין. In reacting to my broken foot, I cannot recall anything or any particular time that this injury occurred. But it did. As for me, it was a well-kept secret that I had broken my foot - even when informed that it was broken. I was in disbelief. I could not remember, but Hashem remembered. I could not see anything. But God sees all that is hidden, especially that which man can not see. Throughout the year, throughout our entire lifetimes, we do things that are wrong, but we don’t remember ever committing them. Even when there may be a hint from above that I’m hurting a bit because I may have broken something [committed a sin], I brush it off and say it’s nothing. ignoring the warning signs, disregarding them, remaining in denial, unable to make that connection. We can’t see the crack but the Almighty does, because He sees all. To God the world is seen clearly, for us, mere mortals, we would need an X-ray. And even with the X-ray we still can’t believe it. I am not saying that any illness or sickness is caused by a sin or that a wounded person is bad. We know that sometimes the righteous have difficulties in this world. Nevertheless, these are signs that Hashem is clearly trying to communicate with us. Whatever that message is, we need to take it seriously and not discard it. We need to pay attention and address it. We must be aware of the steps we take and follow a path that the Torah leads us upon. The leaders of the Jewish people literally led us, walked the walk, teaching by example and giving of themselves for the Jewish people. There could be no one more suited for this description than Moshe Rabbeinu’s:

In this week’s Parshas Vayeilech the Torah states in Devarim 31:1"וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל" “Moshe went {literally walked} and spoke the following words to all Israel, saying to them: Today I am 120 years old and I can no longer come and go”. The steps of Moshe Rabbeinu were not ordinary paces. They teach us everything that Moshe did in Torah and Mitzvos was done for the sake of the Jewish people. Rav Yosef Ben Meir Teomim* in his work Noam Megadim writes the strength of the community gives strength to the leader to reach higher levels and climb the spiritual ladder step by step to lead Am Yisrael to a higher place. Furthermore, Rav Teomim writes that even after Moshe finished walking, meaning after his soul departed from this world, he continued to lead the Jewish people. As he spoke these words and the Jewish people heard his voice, the lessons he taught continue until this very day. In fact, the words you are reading right now are words that Moshe Rabbeinu himself taught us and continue to do so.

We need to be cognizant of our actions and steps because they are all truly hidden, a known only to Hashem. This applies to the sins and to the Mitzvos as well. We sometimes forget the negative or positive impact we have on others, whether we see this or not. Therefore, the lesson for this year is not to tread lightly, to the contrary let’s put our foot down, making positive and strong imprints of Torah values and chessed and kindness to all around us. We, the observant Torah-filled community consist of each individual, every one of us must step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of V’Halachta Bidrachav: We shall follow or walk in His ways!

Ah Gut Shabbos & ah Gmar Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782