Success is built on Succos

When you built your Succah you were building on the success of previous endeavors.

When we shake our lulav with the other minim we are expressing our joy of serving Hashem building on the success of the Yomim Noraim.

Hopefully we are all in the mood for a great Yom Tov with great food.

What do you do if you’re, “just not in the mood?”

The Slonimer Rebbe ZTL tells us we are not alone. This is natural and we should feel right at home. We can learn how to deal with this phenomenon from the daled minom.

In the daled minim there is the esrog that is like a person who is always in the mood. It has good smell and good taste. However we learn to serve Hashem even when we only have the sense of smell like the hadasim or when we just have a taste of a mitzvah like the lulav’s dates. However, even when we are just out of it like the arava; not getting a good vibe without a smell or taste to inbibe, we cling tight to those around us and continue on with a drive. Before long what do you know, the others are put down and we are center stage steeling the show. Standing tall representing the final blow that Hashem will give to the 5 kingdoms who held us down through the ages. So join together as we go through this endeavor of Succos, daled minim, hoshana rabba, and simchas Torah. Keep your head held high inspire others until the final day when Mashiach will herald the final geulah and we will be rewarded for perseverance and building on every experience no matter taste smell or appearance.

Suggestions to help in perseverance:

  1. Remember a time when you were in the mood.
  2. Stay close to someone who is in the mood.
  3. Act like your in the mood even if you’re not.
  4. Shake and jump and swing yourself about.
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Parashas Ki Savo

Download Ki Savo PDF

What is the Purpose of Life?

Taste of Talmud and Halacha

Rav says: G-d’s name must be included in a blessing in order for the blessing to be efficacious, Rabbi Yochanan says that you also have to mention the fact that G-d is the King of the universe for the blessing to be valid. Abayey explains that this dispute is based on their varied understandings of the verse which tells us what the farmers say when they bring Bikurim (the gift of their first fruit).  The farmers say, “I have properly completed the tithing in all of its details   (Deut. 26:13).”   All agree that one of the requirements for a proper tithing is that a blessing should be said.  They are only arguing as to what must be included in the formula of the blessing (Brachos 40b). Rashi comments, the wording of the blessing is: Blessed are you our G-d, King of the universe, Who has commanded us to separate the tithes and priestly gifts.   Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zt”l points out that we can learn from this Rashi that he is of the opinion that this blessing is biblical in origin. From Rashi’s commentary to Deuteronomy (26:13) it is also clear that he understands that there is a command to make a blessing prior to separating tithes.  Great scholars of later generations were troubled by these words of Rashi.  They asked: In regards to other Mitzvos such as blowing the Shofar or performing a Bris Milah, the blessing is Rabbinic in origin. Why is the Mitzvah of tithing different? Therefore, they amended Rashi’s statement to say that there is a biblical command to praise G-d prior to separating tithes but not necessarily to make a blessing prior to the Mitzvah.  Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky Zt”l provides us with a novel insight which removes the necessity to amend the words of Rashi.  The Mitzvah of separating the tithes is different than other Mitzvos such as blowing the shofar and Bris Milah.  It is readily apparent when one performs Mitzvos which do not give us physical pleasure, such as these, that they are being done because G-d commanded us to do them.  The blessing that is said prior to their performance is rabbinic in origin because it is merely intended to help us clearly express the otherwise obvious. The Mitzvah of separating tithes, however, has two aspects to it.  The first is very physical.  One must remove the forbidden food from this mixture in order to be able to enjoy his produce.  The second part, giving the gift to the Levites and Kohanim, is clearly a spiritual act in service of G-d.  Since, when a farmer first removes the fruit, it is not clear from his actions whether he is doing it in order to serve G-d, or just to enjoy the produce, there is a biblical command to make a blessing prior to the tithing.  In so doing, he makes it clear that not only is the spiritual side of this Mitzvah being done to serve G-d but the physical aspect is being done to sanctify G-d’s name in this world as well.

Taste of Parasha

The Medrash, in Bereishis Rabba 1:15, relates an interesting debate between the great sages Shamai and Hillel.  Shamai is of the opinion that heaven was created before earth, whereas Hillel is of the opinion that earth was created before heaven. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai commented on this debate: In my opinion, they were created at the same moment.  The Nesivos Shalom explains: These sages are not arguing about the physical creation of the world, rather, they are conveying to us their different approaches as to the purpose of life itself. What is the loftiest goal in life?   Shamai is telling us: The most important objective in life is to do Mitzvohs that are purely spiritual, heavenly.    Hillel says there is an even loftier objective.  In his opinion, the main purpose of life is to uplift all earthly matters to be used in the service of G-d.  To this, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai says, “Both ways of serving G-d are commendable.  G-d’s name can be sanctified both through Mitzvos that do not have physical pleasure and through those that do.” With this insight, we can now understand why our sages say that the world was created so that the Jews would bring the gift of Bikurim (first fruits) as gifts to the Kohanim.  This is a Mitzvah in which both ways of serving  G-d come together in an ideal manner.  We too, can learn from here to look for ways through which to elevate all aspects of our lives towards a more meaningful existence in the upcoming year.

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Chol Hamoed April 13, 2017 @Six Flags


To buy your tickets on line, Click here or on the credit card emblem below.    Please write the name of the person who will pick them up in the line that says camper name and please write the number of tickets  you are buying in the line that says description.(parking passes are sold out)


BUY 1 Ticket: $44.99     Great DEAL!  BUY 2 or more ONLY $39.99 per Ticket!



10:30 :  Park Opens

12:00 – 1:00 :  Kosher for Pesach Food for Sale at the Picnic Area next to the parking lot. 

1:30: Jewish Music at Theater

2:00: Mincha at Theater followed by more music!

3:00: Mincha at Theater followed by more music!

5:30: Kosher for Pesach Food for Sale at the Picnic Area next to the parking lot.

7:00: Park Closes……. Mincha at Picnic Area next to the Parking Lot 

Click here for Directions to Six Flags America   The Address is:

13710 Central Avenue, Upper Marlboro, MD 20721.

Chag Kasher Ve’ Sameach, see you at Six Flags!

BYOM,   Bring your own Matzah!

For great words of inspiration for the SEDER CLICK HERE:

Here is a sample from… 

The Torah calls Pesach “Chag Hamatzos.” But we call it “Pesach.” Why is this so? Rav Chaim Volozhiner explains as follows:

The word Matzos and the word Mitzvos are spelled exactly the same in Hebrew. Thus “Chag HaMatzos” can be read “Chag HaMitzvos,” meaning that by leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah, the Jewish People now have the opportunity to earn great reward by doing the Mitzvos.Pesach, on the other hand, means Passover: Hashem “passed over” the houses of the Bnei Yisrael. By calling it Pesach, we emphasize the good that Hashem has done for us.Our Sages teach us not to serve Hashem with an eye to the reward; rather we should serve Him out of a sense of love and gratitude. By calling it Pesach we de-emphasize the reward that each Mitzva brings, and instead focus on the good that Hashem has done for us. By, Rabbi Reuven Lauffer

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A fascinating tale

Click here to see the original post from  Ohr Somayach Institutions

I hope you enjoy this excellent and fascinating tale connected to Parashas Vayishlach!

In Parshas Vayishlach, after Yaakov Avinu’s epic battle with Eisav’s guardian angel[1], where he got injured in his hip socket[2], we are given a Biblical commandment, the third and last of the whole sefer Bereishis, that Bnei Yisrael may not partake of the Gid Hanasheh, the sciatic nerve, of any animal. Additionally, there is a Rabbinic prohibition on eating from the outer sinew of the animal’s thigh tendon[3]. The Sefer HaChinuch[4] writes that this mitzvah actually serves as a constant reminder that eventually we will be redeemed from this protracted exile.

To fulfill this mitzvah properly, every last trace of said nerves and the fat covering the sciatic nerve must be removed as well. This act is called nikkur, a.k.a. treibbering, deveining, or porging the forbidden nerves and fats, and it takes an expert to do it properly[5].

Trouble was the Traveling Treibberer

One of the most outstanding experts in hilchos nikkur known was Rav Yonason Eibeshutz zt”l (1690 – 1764), one of the greatest Torah giants of his period and famed author of 89(!) works[6], including the renowned Yaaros Devash, Urim V’Tumim, and Kreisi U’Pleisi. In the latter sefer, in his commentary to the laws of Gid Hanasheh[7], Rav Yonason recorded a fascinating historical incident, which posthumously sparked a raging halachic controversy.

He related that an expert porger came to town (Prague) claiming that the sinew that Jews have been removing for centuries was the wrong one! This treibberer alleged that a different sinew was the true Gid Hanasheh. The ramifications of his claim were gargantuan, for if it were deemed accurate, consequently all of World Jewry would have chas veshalom been eating non-kosher from time immemorial!

Rav Yonason writes that he showed this fellow the error of his ways as the sinew this porger was referring to was found exclusively in male animals, and could therefore not possibly be the correct one, for it states in the “SMaG(ostensibly the Sefer Mitzvos Hagadol, written by Rav Moshe of Coucy in the 13th century, Negative Commandment 139) that the prohibition of Gid Hanasheh applies to both males and females”. With his vast knowledge and expertise, Rav Eibeshutz thus averted potential communal disaster. He concludes his passage reiterating the importance and necessity of a porger’s proficiency and capability.

Kreisi Controversy

However, as many puzzled people later pointed out, this logic seemed inherently flawed, as this quote does not actually appear in the SMaG! The SMaG in his actual quote (Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 139) was referring to people, not animals! In other words, he wrote that women were similarly obligated in keeping this prohibition as men do[8]. They wondered, is it possible the great Rav Eibeshutz could have made such a simple mistake? And, if so, what was it that the Kreisi U’Pleisi showed this traveling treibberer that refuted his taynos? Many scholars over the years searched for a proper solution to this perplexing conundrum.

One suggestion was that the porger was unlearned, and Rav Yonason wanted to expose his ignorance and therefore set a trap and easily refute him[9]. The issue with this is that, by Rav Yonason’s own testimony, the porger was a “Talmid Chacham and expert”, which would negate this solution.

The Pischei Teshuvah[10] cites the Toldos Adam, who takes a different approach and makes an example out of this story as proof that even Gedolim can err. Following this would mean that one may not partake in eating said meat without removing both sinews.Although the Toldos Adam’s intent was merely to uncover the truth, he unwittingly fueled the fires of the Haskalah, as one of their primary goals was the undermining of Rabbinic authority[11]. In fact, this author personally heard noted historian Rabbi Berel Wein aver that the Haskalah used this story as propaganda to sway the masses.

On the other hand, many Rabbinic luminaries wrote responsae[12], including a tremendous pilpul by the Chasam Sofer[13], not only defending the Rav Eibeshutz’s words from attack, but actually each citing different proofs and logic how his shittah is truly correct, that the Gid Hanesheh must be present in both male and female animals.

Several authorities[14] wrote that it must be a printing mistake and the correct point of reference was the S – H – G (סה”ג), referring to the Sefer Halachos Gedolos, a ninth century Halachic code which contains a section on hilchos treifos[15], who actually does imply that the Gid Hanasheh is found in both male and female animals. Others[16] feel that he meant “a sefer mitzvos gadol”, meaning a big book of mitzvos, possibly referring to the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 3), who implies this as well.

VeHetzdiku es HaTzaddik

However, the whole truth did not actually come out until 1930, when a rabbi in Los Angeles, Rabbi Shlomo Michoel Neches, wrote in the Shaarei Tzion Torah Journal[17] that he had in his possession an original manuscript of the Kreisi U’Pleisi, and the words SMAG were crossed out by Rav Yonason Eibeshutz himself, and written on top of them were the letters S – H – N ((סה”נ, which stood for Seder Hilchos Nikkur, referring to the Seder HaNikkur of the Baal HaItur[18]. There it was written explicitly that the Gid Ganasheh that both men and women are forbidden from consuming is found in both male and female animals. Finally and justly, a Gadol Hador was vindicated – 165 years after his death[19]!

Although we had to wait over a century and a half to attain clarity on this halachic mystery, it is imperative that we realize that our true mesorah (in this case – all the way back to Yaakov Avinu!) is rock solid and our chachamim are given special siyatta dishmaya to arrive at the correct halachic conclusions. It might take a century or even a millennium, but in the end we clearly see why our chachamim are called “Einei HaEidah[20].

Postscript: Interestingly, and quite apropos, this fascinating historical episode has had a recent, and equally fascinating, addendum. Apparently, Rabbi Neches’ sefarim, including his original copy of the Kreisi U’Pleisi, were donated to the UCLA Research Library. Several scholars traveled there to see Rav Eibeshutz’s original amendment and came upon an astonishing discovery. It turns out that it was not the handwritten correction of that renowned Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, but that of another, later Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, who lived at least a century after the first. This second Rav Eibeshutz, a Torah scholar of note, was the Av Beis Din of Lashitz, Poland, and author of Shu”t Tiferes Yonason. Apparently, this was his personal copy of Kreisi U’Pleisi, and he was the one who made the amendment which was later proven accurate in shedding light on the original Rav Yonason’s puzzling citation, and not the author himself[21]. Either way, and whichever Rav Eibeshutz, we manifestly see the Divine orchestration involved in clearing up this complicated complexity of historical record.

This article was written l’Zechus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif umiyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U’ Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”:


[1] Bereishis (end of Ch. 32). This follows Rashi’s understanding (ad loc. 25, end s.v. vayei’aveik ish), based on the Midrash Rabbah (ad loc. 77: 3) and Midrash Tanchuma (ad loc. 8; who adds that the guardian angel of Eisav was Sama-el). However, there is another opinion, cited in Otzar HaMidrashim (ad loc.), that it was really the ma’alach Michoel that Yaakov fought, and not Eisav’s guardian angel, in order to prove to Yaakov that he had nothing to fear from Eisav.

[2] Due to the dictum of ‘Maaseh Avos Siman L’Banim’ [see recent article titled ‘Mysterious Omens and our Forefathers’] we are still feeling the repercussions of this act nowadays. See Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah to this parshah.

[3] Gemara Chullin (Ch. Gid Hanasheh, 91a – 93b); Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 65, 8).

[4] Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 3). Several Rishonim, including the Ramban (Bereishis Ch. 32: 26), Rabbeinu Bachaya (ad loc.), Rashba (Chiddushei Agaddos, Chullin 91a), and Ra’ah (Pekudas HaLeviim, Brachos 33b), as well as the Midrash Rabba (Parshas Vayishlach 78, 5), also imply this message. See the Machon Yerushalayim version of Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 3, footnote 3) at length.

[5] See Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Yoreh Deah 65, 13 & 14), and their commentaries.

[6] See preface to seferChacham HaRazimRebbi Yonason Eibeshutz’.

[7] Kreisi U’Pleisi (Yoreh Deah 65, Kreisi 16).

[8] See for example, the Baruch Taam’s glosses to the Kreisi U’Pleisi ad loc. Although others, including the Tzemach Hasadeh (on Yoreh Deah 65, pg. 41), assumed he meant the SMaK, it is also not found there; neither is it in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos (Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 183). See also Rav Shmuel Ashkenazi’s Alpha Beta Tinyeisa D’Shmuel Ze’ira (vol. 1, pg. 195 – 196).

[9] See Hegos B’Parshiyos HaTorah by Rabbi Yehuda Nachshoni, on Parshas Vayishlach, pg. 137.

[10] Pischei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 65, 2), citing the Toldos Adam (Rav Yechezkel Feivel Wolfe of Vilna; vol. 2, Ch. 15, pg. 237).

[11] Paraphrase from Professor Shnayer Zalman Leiman’s excellent “Rabbi Jonathon Eibeshuetz and the Porger” (pg. 16). Thanks are due to Rabbi Eliezer Brodt, author of Bein Kesseh L’Essor and Lekutei Eliezer, for providing me with this important source.

[12] Including the Mahar”i Assad (Shu”t Yehuda Ya’aleh, Yoreh Deah 102), Rav Shlomo Kluger (Shu”t Tuv Taam V’Daas, Mahadura Kama vol. 1, 100) [neither of whom actually approved of the Chasam Sofer’s pilpul], the Butchatcher Gaon (Daas Kedoshim, Yoreh Deah 65, Hilchos Giddin HaAssurin 4; see explanation in Gidulei HaKodesh there, 1), the Ginzei Yosef (Shu”t 96, 2, quoting the Einei Yisrael), the Mahar”i HaLevi (Shu”t vol. 1, end 36, s.v. mah shetamah), and the Arugas Habosem (Shu”t Yoreh Deah 64, 4). See also Rav Moshe Yosef Shapiro of Prague’s ‘Bris Avraham’ (Parshas Vayishlach) who, quite thoroughly argues on the whole premise of those who questioned Rav Eibeshutz, as once the Torah wrote that Bnei Yisroel may not partake of any Gid Hanasheh, it is patently obvious that it must occur in all kosher beheimos, with no differentiation between male and female. Additionally, as the Rambam writes in his preface to his Pirush HaMishnayos regarding the Torah’s ‘Pri Eitz Hadar’ being identified as the Esrog, once we have a Mesorah L’Doros dating back to Moshe Rabbeinu, all other so-called ‘proofs’ to the contrary immediately fall off. Therefore, he avers, the same would apply here as well regarding the Gid Hanasheh.

[13] Shu”t Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah 69), cited approvingly by the Pischei Teshuva (ibid.) and Shu”t HaRava”z (Yoreh Deah 111). The Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 65, 25, in the brackets) might be referring to this solution as well.

[14] Including the Mishmeres Shalom (Yoreh Deah 65, Mishbetzos Zahav); Rav Avraham Shimon Traub, the Kaidan Gaon, in a new edition of Sefer Halachos Gedolos (pg. 296) that he published; the Ginzei Yosef (ibid.); and Rav Yosef Adler (cited in Shu”t Mishnah Halachos vol. 3, 67). The Tzitz Eliezer (Shu”t vol. 8, 25, 2 and vol. 18, 63, 6 s.v.v’ani) actually prefers this amending to the later one, opining that Rabbi Neches must not have been able to read Rav Yonason’s handwriting clearly.

[15] BeHa”G (61, Hilchos Treifos pg 129a; exact location cited in Maadanei Hashulchan, Yoreh Deah 65, footnote 118). Still, others feel that the BeHa”G’s words are also not entirely clear that he was referring to female animals; see Haghos Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer to the BeHa”G (ad loc.), Chadrei De’ah (ad loc. 8), Giluy Daas (ad loc. 7), and Daas Yonason (glosses on the recent Zichron Aharon version of the Kreisi U’Pleisi 65, 16).

[16] See Shu”t Mishnah Halachos (vol. 3, 68, s.v. u’mah). One can also infer this from the Minchas Chinuch’s comments (Mitzva 3, 13).

[17] Shaarei Tzion Torah Journal(Choveret HaYovel 1930, 25) – under the title “VeHetzdiku es HaTzaddik” – “The Tzaddik Was Justified” (Devarim Ch. 25, verse 1); also printed in HaPardes Journal (vol. 4, Journal 1: 10 pg. 18 – 19). This important historical tidbit is found in Pardes Yosef (Parshas Vayishlach, 33 s.v. uv’kru”p), as well as in Torah Shleimah (Parshas Vayishlach, 169), and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.). It is also added as an important footnote in many recent editions of the Shulchan Aruch, some printed with the words “mitzvah l’farsem”.

[18] Seder HaNikkur (Shaar HaRishon, Hechsher HaBassar 8b – exact location cited in Maadanei Hashulchan Yoreh Deah 65, footnote 118), also brought in the Tur (end Yoreh Deah 65), as well as in Rabbeinu Yerucham (Nesiv 15, 14, pg. 128b). According to Professor Leiman (cited above) the version Rav Eibeshutz showed the porger was the 1577 version with the glosses of Rav Tzvi Bochner, a master treibberer and contemporary of the Rema, as there are those [see Prishah (Yoreh Deah 65, 56) and Shu”t Mishnah Halachos (vol. 3, 68 s.v. bram and s.v. mevuar)] who explain that in other versions, the words “male” and female” are actually referring to types of muscles, not the gender of the animals.

[19] Also thereby proving that Rav Eibeshutz chose the right name for his sefer,Kreisi U’Pleisi – See Gemara Brachos (4a) and Rashi (ad loc. s.v. shekorsim).

[20] Parshas Shelach (Bamidbar Ch. 15, verse 24). Interestingly, this author has seen it averred that history has proven that in the whole sefer Kreisi U’Pleisi on all of Yorah Deah only one (!) actual mistake was found, but it turns out that it was clearly an error in Geometry – see Kreisi U’Pleisi (Tiferes Yisrael, Yoreh Deah 190, 14) and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch’s Lechem V’Simlah (ad loc. Simlah 11). This will Bezr”H be addressed fully in this author’s upcoming maamar in Kovetz Eitz Chaim (vol. 25).

[21] See Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok HaKohen Miller’s maamar in Kovetz Hama’eyan (vol. 215; Tishrei 5776, pg 100 – 102), with pictures of the title page and amendment of Rabbi Neches’s copy of Kreisi U’Pleisi. Thanks are due to R’ Moshe Boruch Kaufman and R’ Dovid Wasserlauf for pointing out this startling recent development in the saga of Rav Eibeshutz and the traveling treibberer.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L’iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva – Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R’ Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R’ Boruch Yehuda, and l’zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u’miyad!

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Solicitation for Camp Gevaldig 5776

Dear families and friends of Camp Gevaldig,

One of the ways to merit a good judgement during the Yomim Nora’aim is by becoming active in communal activities.  Last year, your support made it possible for over 150 Jewish children to grow and develop in a beautiful Makom Torah during the summer.  Please help us again this year and be part of this great Mitzvah.  I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to partner with us in providing a premier day camp with pure Torah Values for the community of Silver Spring.

By making a donation at the beginning of this year, you will enable us to be able to provide this service again, next summer, for those families who are not able to afford camp.  Our camp runs under the auspices of local Rabbis and educators and is run by the best Torah educators in the area.

Donations could be made directly to Camp Gevaldig by credit card by clicking on the donate button on this web page.   Tax deductible donations can be made by making out a check to: Keren Hachesed of Greater Washington.    By providing a camp scholarship for a child in our community you not only give this child the Gevaldig benefits that our camp has to offer but you help the parents and the entire community as well.  Your contribution will enable us to provide Jewish children a happy and healthy Torahdike environment in the summer.  Please help us at the beginning of this new-year with a donation to our scholarship fund.

Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated by those less fortunate than you.

A scholarship for two weeks is: $360.00.   A full summer scholarship is: $1,180.00.

Checks could be made out to: KHGW (Keren Hachesed of Greater Washington)

And mailed to:
Camp Gevaldig LLC
3116 Shelburne Rd.
Baltimore, MD

Our professional Rebbeim and loving staff appreciate your support.  Our campers appreciate the opportunity to learn Torah, Middos and Yiras Shamayim in a warm, fun, and absolutely Gevaldig camp.

It is only through the vision and leadership of people such as you that we are able to provide these essential services to the Jewish boys and girls of Silver Spring.  In the merit of this great Mitzvah may you be blessed with a Gevaldig year, and a Kesiva Vachasima Tova.

Rabbi Yair Friedman,
Director, Camp Gevaldig LLC

Here are some pictures from our Girls Division….G2!

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Concert/ Melava-Malka on Dec. 13, 2014

Please Join Us at our Benefit Concert For The Camp Gevaldig Scholarship Fund On December 13 at SEHC at 8:15…

A Gevaldig Pre-Chanukah Concert

A Gevaldig Pre-Chanukah Concert

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Sha’vu’ose: Zman Matan Torasainu: It is all up to you!

Is the fact that the Torah was given on Shavuos a secret?  If not, then why does the Torah neglect to tell us this important aspect of the Yom Tov of Shavuose?  Could it be that we are being taught something vital about the nature of Torah by the fact that its day of celebration is referred to as the “Chag Ha’katzir”, Holiday of the Reaping, or alternatively, “Chag Habikurim”, Holiday of The First Fruits.  The mystery deepens when we find a completely new name being used by our sages to refer to this awesome day.  In the Mishnah and Gemarah, Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres.  It is not until the compilation of the Nusach Hatefilah that we finally find the name Zman Matan Toraseinu being used.

In order to be able to attain a real Kabbalas HaTorah on the day we received the Torah, we need to gain an appreciation of our relationship to Torah.  Rav Moshe Shapiro cultivates a few lessons from these names bringing them to a fruitful conclusion.

The name Atzeres, is translated by the Targum (Deut. 16:8) as, “Ki’nosh”, gather.  It is a day of gathering together physically, yes; however, it goes much deeper than that.  We are meant to gather together all of the attributes that we developed during the days of Sefira and use them to facilitate a proper Kabbalas HaTorah.  It is up to us to prepare ourselves with good Middos and Derch Eretz to create a fertile plain for the Torah to take root.  This, Rav Shapiro explains, is the inner meaning of the statement (Menachos, 65b) to count days and make the month holy; count days and make Atzeres holy.  It is only through that gradual process of developing ourselves that we can come to the day of gathering, Atzeres, and be able to receive the Torah.   The world that we live in is a world similar to that which the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzayim lived.  They began their journey to Kabbalas Hatorah from a vantage point of, “Mi Hashem asher Eshma B’kolo?”  Based on the Zohar, Rav Shapiro explains that Hashem created this world with the name Elokim.  When this word is read backwards, it can be read as Mi Eileh?  Who is this?  G-d hides Himself within the natural world.  Only through developing our middos are we able to come to see the 50 levels of wisdom (Mi: Mem yud) which are hidden in the world known as Teva. We can then appreciate the fact that Teva is filled with G-dliness, as is conveyed by the fact that it has the same numerical value as Elokim (86, without the vav).   The Bnei Yisroel followed this trajectory with their counting of the days toward Matan Torah.  We, as well, can leave the world of Mitzrayim, which has the gimatriya of Mispar (380), an individual number without connection to a greater purpose, and go to a world of the Am Hanivchar, where each Jew counts as part of a greater whole.  This brings down Kedusha into this world as part of a Minyan, a significant group where the sum is greater than the parts.

It is really up to us to till the soil of our soul to prepare ourselves for this lofty role.  Rav Shapiro continues this growth process by shedding some light on the name, Chag Ha’Asif.  The spiritual world is what gives the energy to the physical world.  What is it in the spiritual world that gives the energy to the grain to be ready to be cut and used?  The Gemarah writes that a child is considered to have the most basic level of knowledge when he can eat grain.  Furthermore, the Gemarah says that it can be determined if a child has Daas, knowledge, if he is able to discern the difference between a rock and a walnut.  The harvest of the grain is an expression of an abundance of knowledge in the world.  With the giving of the Torah, it became possible for a human to attain levels of knowledge where he can discern between good and evil.  However, it is up to him.  The Torah has been given. Yes. Will you use that knowledge to choose good?  It is up to you.

The Torah only tells us of the possibility of knowledge that is available at this point in time.  It is a holiday of gathering the grain, of enjoying the first fruit.  Will this lead to a Holiday of Atzeres, of gathering of the middos necessary to create a fertile environment for Torah to flourish? It is up to you.  Will you be able to attain a kabalas Hatorah and rejoice in the holiday of Matan Torah.  Will you be able to enjoy the fruit of the Torah? It is up to you.  The Torah does not define it as the Yom Tov of Matan Torah because that will not necessarily happen, nor does it even call it Atzeres, per se’, because without your effort, that will not happen either.

Only in their teachings do Chazal convey to us the way to attain Torah. This can happen through making this day an Atzeres, a day of gathering of all of our faculties and focusing them toward the goal of understanding the Torah.   Then, only in our Tefilos, do Chazal actually put the words: Z’man Matan Torasainu into our liturgy, to guide us to ask Hashem for His precious gift, the Torah.  It is all up to you.



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Sefiras Haomer for A Bar Mitzvah Bachur

A Dvar Torah from Rav Shlomo Aviner, Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
Q: If a boy becomes a bar mitzvah during the period of Sefirat Ha-Omer, should he continue to count Sefirat Ha-Omer with a blessing after his bar mitzvah?
A: He may continue to count Sefirat Ha-Omer with a blessing based on three reasons:
1. Although he did not have an obligation to count before his bar mitzvah, he nonetheless counted. Counting is counting.
2. He had a rabbinic obligation of “chinuch – education” to count before his bar mitzvah and the mitzvah of Sefirat Ha-Omer is a rabbinic mitzvah in our time. Both obligations are therefore rabbinic in nature, and one rabbinic obligation can join with the other rabbinic obligation. Nonetheless there can be discussions whether these obligations are equal since perhaps before he is a bar mitzvah there are two rabbinic laws and after he is a bar mitzvah there is only one rabbinic law.
3. There is also an opinion among the Rishonim (early authorities) which states that each day of Sefirat Ha-Omer is a separate mitzvah. There is a dispute whether there is one mitzvah to count all forty-nine days or whether each and every day is a mitzvah in and of itself. In this dispute, the halachic authorities rule that we are strict not to continue counting with a blessing if we forget to count one day because of a doubt which opinion is correct (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 489:8). In our case, however, since we are combining a few reasons together, we can say that perhaps the opinion which states that each day of counting is a mitzvah in and of itself is the correct one.
There is in fact a dispute regarding our question. Some authorities rule that a bar mitzvah should not continue to count with a blessing. These include: Shut Pri Ha-Aretz (3:1), Shut Har Tzvi (2:76) and Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Shut Yechaveh Daat (3:29). Other authorities rule that a bar mitzvah should continue to count with a blessing, including: Shaarei Teshuvah on the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), Shut Ketav Sofer (Orach Chaim #99), Aruch Ha-Shulchan (ibid. #15) and Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot of Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch (1:313).
Based on a combination of the three above reasons, I say that one should follow the authorities who rule that a bar mitzvah should continue to count Sefirah with a blessing. Even though the basic mitzvah is to count and one who counts even without a blessing fulfills the mitzvah, the reality is that one who counts without a blessing feels that he is not really counting. This idea is mentioned in “Shearim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah” (vol. 3 p. 129). This feeling is not correct and it is not a halachic factor, but it is an additional incentive to rule that a bar mitzvah should continue to count Sefirat Ha-Omer with a blessing.


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Pesach 5774: A Live Chat with G-d?

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Click here for two divrei Torah on the Haggadah from the Chofetz Chaim

Imagine Moshe Rabbeinu coming to his fellow Bnei Yisroel and trying to explain to them what he experienced at the burning bush? It might have gone something like this:
“Hi everyone, um, guess who I spoke with today?”
“Moshe, where have you been? We haven’t seen you since Pharaoh tried to decapitate you.”
“Yes, it’s been quite a few years.  But, guess what?”
“I spoke to G-d!”
“G-d! Are you sure it was Him?”
“Yes, I’m sure; there was a burning bush, a great voice and a bunch of miracles!”
“Wow! So what did G-d say?”
He said, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go!”
“This is amazing, so when do we go?”
It took a while, but that is what happened. After a little back and forth, a staff, a snake and 10 plagues; Pharaoh came to Moshe in pajamas in the middle of the night and said, Go!
There was, however, a crucial component of the redemption that we skipped.
When Moshe Rabbeinu first spoke with G-d, he asked, “Who should I say sent me? What is Your name?”
G-d responded, “Tell them, Ekye asher Ekye sent me to you.” Was this a new name, an old name or was it just a way of interacting with G-d?
The Medrash says that G-d was telling Moshe that you will never know my actual name because a name defines the essence of someone or something and it is impossible for a finite creation to understand the essence of an infinite being. The only way that we relate to G-d is through His actions in this world. When we experience G-d’s mercy we refer to him as Rachum. When we experience G-d’s power we refer to him as Keil. When we experience his judgment the name we use is Elokim. The name Havaya is used to refer to G-d’s kindness.
The name Ekye, says the Medrash, is the name which means I relate to the world through my actions, “Al yedei Ma’ asai ani Nikra“. Or, in other words, it is not a name but an overall explanation of the nature of our interaction with Him! In fact there is an opinion in Shulchan Aruch (YOD 276: 9) that this name does not have the same level of holiness as the other names of G-d. Whereas the other names of G-d cannot be erased, this one can. Others disagree and say that Ekye, too, is a holy name of G-d. According to this opinion there is an entirely new dimension of G-d that we became aware of at the time of Yetziyas Mitzrayim that is conveyed by the name Ekye. What was it, and why was it the new modus operandi for us as a nation to use as our interface with G-d?
A world in which a Jew and an Egyptian are able to drink from the same cup, while for one it is water and for the other it is blood, is a world that is in a constant state of renewal, an emanation of Havaya,  G-dly creation.  It is not a world which has been programmed with a certain set of commands and algorithms by a supreme being who is on call to reprogram and make adjustments as needed. A world of Ekye (the active conjugation of the name Havaya) is a world of live communication with the Supreme Being who is deciding right now what it should look like for me, for you, and for each creation independent of any other. This is the world of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, who is famous for saying, “The One who said oil should burn will say that vinegar should burn”. The way things usually function in the world is only because G-d so ordained them to function in that way right now but HE could just as well, simultaneously, determine that they should function in a different way at the same exact moment.
Our fore-fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov related to G-d through the name ofShakay; the G-d who created the world with a set of rules which we call nature, Who intervenes when he deems it necessary. Now, G-d is telling Moshe Rabbeinu, I will not only relate to the Jewish nation through various actions, but I will have a constantly changing interaction with each and every individual. I will relate to the Jewish nation through the name of Ekye, what we could refer to as a “live chat”.
If this is the case, then our understanding of our mission in this world as Jews takes on a whole new meaning.  Rav Moshe Shapiro elaborates on the echoes and ethos which a relationship of Ekye proportions has for us.   The numerical value of the name Ekye(alef, hey, yud, hey) is 21.  When you multiply it by itself, which is the complete expansion of the name, as it is applied throughout the exile, then you get the sum of 441 (21 x 21=441).  This is the numerical value of the word EMES (alef, mem, suf).  The word Emes is also famous for being the seal of G-d.  It is the goal of creation.  The world will only be complete when a complete awareness of the Truth is accepted by all.  This can only be achieved through the negation of all other possibilities.  If you only have one choice, it cannot be said that you know the Truth is correct.  Only when the Truth has been chosen from out of the darkness of the falsehood of exile, can it be said, that Truth has vanquished falsehood and the path of G-d has been proclaimed to be the one and only True path.   This is the next step of Ekye asher EkyeEkyemultiplied upon itself and fulfilled through our actions in this world of actions.  At the Seder, we begin upon this path of truth.  We begin by proclaiming that G-d took us out of Mitzrayim and we will serve him.  We show our acceptance of His will as the one and only governing force in our lives.  By fulfilling all of the Mitzvohs of the Seder.   We thank Him for being constantly aware of our actions and begin to echo this by being constantly aware of Him.   We conclude with the Love Song of the Jewish Soul to its Maker.  Shir Hashirim asher L’ Shlomo,  Melech She’ Hashalom Shelo, Yishkon Aleinu Bracha Ve’ Shalom.  A song to the King who is bringing the world to Peace, may He dwell in us and fill our homes with blessings and Peace.
Chag Kasher V’ Sameyach, Have A Great Yom Tov!












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Commentary on the Haggadah based on the writings of the Chofetz Chaim Zt”l: 5773

“Tzai Ulimad” (Go out and learn)

The Hagadah is telling us that we should go out and learn about Galus.
The Chofetz Chaim asks a few questions about Galus:
What can we learn from the way the Avos went to Galus?
What was the reason the descendants of Avraham Avinu had to go to Galus?
It was a punishment to Avraham Avinu because Avraham did not believe in Hashem completely. When Hashem promised Avraham that his children will get Eretz Yisroel, Avraham asked, “How do I know that they will inherit it?”
Why did Yaakov have to go to Mitzrayim for Galus? Why couldn’t he just fulfill the gezairah  (decree) of galus and stay in the house of Lavan in Aramam Naharayim?
Yaakov kept all the mitzvos of the Torah and he was very careful to be honest in that difficult situation so he was zoche to be saved from Lavan. Lavan would have been even more cruel to the Bnei Yiseroel than Pharaoh. This is what it means when the Hagaddah said, “Lavan tried to destroy everything.”
Why was it that Yosef went to Galus in a spice caravan?
Why did the brothers of Yosef go to Mitzrayim subservient to Yosef?
Why did Yaakov go to Mitzrayim in a royal carriage?
The Chofetz syas that we learn from here that each person gets exactly what he deserves based on his words and actions.  Yosef said Lashon Harah about his brothers but was otherwise a Tzaddik so he was treated one way.
Yaakov kept all the Torah and Mitzvos so he went down royally.
However, since he spoke harshly to Rochel, Rochel’s son, Yosef, was put in a position of authority over all of Yaakov’s other children.
We learn from here that we should think twice before we say or do anything because Hashem is going to deal with us Midah K’neged Midah (measure for measure). So let’s make it all good. It’s up to us.

 “Li’ feechuch Chayavim Anachnu L’Hodose”  (Therefore we are obligated to say thank you)

Rabbi Ben-Tzion Baruk z”tl once slept in the same room as the Chofetz Chaim. He said that before he went to sleep, he heard the Chofetz Chaim thanking Hashem for every detail of his life.

He said, “Thank you Hashem for helping me when I was an orphan child.
Thank you Hashem for allowing me to print Sefarim.
Thank you Hashem for giving me good children and son-in-laws etc.
The Chofetz Chaim learns from a Medrash how important it is to have Hakaros Hatov and to say Thank you.
The Medrash asks, “Why did Moshe Rabeinu go back to Yisro after Hashem told him he should go back to Mitzrayim to take out the Bnei Yisroel?
The Medrash answers, Moshe Rabbeinu needed to return to Yisro because he had Hakaros Hatov to Yisro for taking care of him in Midyan.   Even though his mission was of such vital importance, he could not begin his journey to take Bnei Yisroel to get the Torah without good Middos. He had to first get permission from Yisro and say thank you before he went on his important mission. We see from here how important it is to have good Middos all the time.


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