Dvar Torah for Chanukah 5774

In Maoz Tzur we say,

“L’ais Tachin Matbaiach Mitzar Ha’ Menabayach.” 

“We will have a new Chanukas Hamizbaiach when   we will be saved from an enemy that barks.”

What does this mean and who is it talking about?

Rav Moshe Shapiro answers that this is talking about the Exile under the kingdom of Edom.

Why is the Exile of Edom called the enemy that barks?

Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that a dog has the attribute of Azus or Chutzpah (impertinence) and that it is called a chutzpadike animal because it goes into places that it does not belong.  Edom learned this Middah of Chutzpah from Yavan, they went into places that they did not belong.  (i.e. the Bais HaMikdash)

How can we help defeat Edom and bring about the final Chanukas Hamizbayach?

There is another animal that has the Middah of Azus.  The Leopard, but it uses this attribute only for good.  As it says in Pirkei Avos, ‘you should be brave like a leopard to serve Hashem’.  The Chashmonaiim used this middah in the right way to defeat the Yevaniim.   Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that the way for Yidden to overcome Yavan and Edom is to use the Middah of Azus in the right way.  We need to use the Middah of Azus to be brave to go to places that will help us grow in our Avodas Hashem, even if it is hard.

We can understand his answer with a story about a dog.

Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived in Rochester, New York.

In order to get to their Yeshiva they had to walk through a bad neighborhood.  At the beginning of the school year their father walked with them and showed them a back way to get to school.  He hoped that by walking along the quieter roads they would avoid any danger.

When their father felt that they knew the way well enough; he asked them if they were ready to go by themselves.  The boys were a bit scared to walk through the bad neighborhood by themselves but they decided to follow the advice of the Mishna in Pirkei Avos that says, “You should be “Oz Kanamer, (brave like a leopard) La’ asose  Retzon Avicha Shebashamayim.”  They Davened that Hashem should protect them.

They were half-way to school the next day when they saw a scary looking gang walking towards them.  When they tried to turn around and go the other way they stopped.  Behind them was the largest, scariest looking dog that they had ever seen.  Now, they could not go backwards or forward.  They stood frozen in their place.  No one moved.  Then, the dog started walking towards them…. so they walked closer to the gang.  When the gang saw the dog walking in their direction they turned around and ran as fast as they could.   The two brothers kept on walking and the dog kept on following behind them.  The dog followed them all the way to their Yeshiva.

When they walked out of Yeshiva that day they found the dog sitting outside waiting for them.  The dog followed them the whole way home and was waiting by their door for them in the morning.   This continued for a number of years.  The boys were never bothered again,  by anyone.

When we use the Middah of Azus to be brave to go to places that will help us grow in our Avodas Hashem, and to do the Mitzvos the way we should even when it is different than those around us we are using the Middah of Azus the right way and Hashem will help us.

When we use the middah of Azus in the right way like the Chashmonaim we can help bring the final Chanukas Hamizbayach with the building of the Bais Hamikdash, Bimehaira Biyameinu, Amen.

Oh!  And by the way, after the boys left Rochester to go out of town for Yeshiva the dog mysteriously disappeared!!!

Tonight is the Chanukah Mesiba at The Greater Washington Community Kollel.  It behooves all of us to come and participate in this beautiful event which will undoubtedly help us grow closer to Hashem.

The Kollel’s Annual Chanukah Mesibah is today Tuesday, the 7thnight of Chanukah!  Bring the whole family to a festive celebration featuring live music and dancing, delicious Chanukah food, a magic show for children, and inspiring words of Torah from Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky.  7:00 PM at the Kollel (10900 Lockwood Dr.)  Please click for flyer.

Have A Great Chanukah!

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A Taste of The Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim:

The discussion of the sin of Mei Merivah in this week’s parashah comprises only a few pesukim, but it’s a fascinating topic. The Midrash says that Moshe Rabbeinu asked that Hakadosh Baruch Hu should specify the reason he was not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael, so that people shouldn’t think that he’s not going into Eretz Yisrael because he angered Hakadosh Baruch Hu the way that the rest of Klal Yisrael did, through their 10 nisyonos of Hashem. The Midrash brings the parable of two women who were punished in beis din, one for immoral behavior and the other for eating Shemittah produce. The one who had eaten Shemittah produce said, “Please publicize the reason I am being punished, so people shouldn’t think that I sinned the way the other woman did.” Similarly, the Torah writes that Moshe Rabbeinu was not allowed to bring Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael because of Mei so that no one should think that he sinned in a more grievous way.  What’s fascinating about this topic is that it’s very unclear what the sin of Moshe Rabbeinu actually was. The Rishonim labored to figure out how, exactly, he sinned, and they offer dozens of explanations, some of which are polar opposites of each other. The Ramban brings four explanations; the Ibn Ezra brings another four, and the Ohr Hachaim brings ten, all of which are proposed by the Rishonim. The Ohr Hachaim says that the Ramban refuted three of these explanations, the Ibn Ezra another three, and the remaining four he’s going to refute himself, after which he’ll offer his own explanation.  Some Rishonim say the sin was that Klal Yisrael didn’t sing a song of thanks for the water they received. The Ibn Ezra cites an explanation that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu had to hit the rock twice was because the first time he lost his kavanah and dveikus as a result of the tumult. The second time he hit the rock, he did it with intense dveikus, so water came out. But for a leader of Klal Yisrael to lose his kavanah and dveikus for even a second is considered a sin. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, says that the sin was that Moshe Rabbeinu got angry at Klal Yisrael, and Klal Yisrael understood that if Moshe Rabbeinu is angry then it must mean that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is angry at them. But Hashem wasn’t angry, and therefore Moshe’s anger was out of place, and considered a sin. The Ramban challenges this, however, saying that this reason would only explain why Moshe was punished, but why was Aharon punished? The pasuk states clearly that Aharon was involved in the sin, and, as the Ramban says, “Aharon lo ka’as miyamav – Aharon never in his life got angry.” The Ramban suggests, therefore, that the sin was that Moshe and Aharon implied that they were bringing water of their own abilities; they forgot the “b’ezras Hashem” and the “im yirtzeh Hashem,” and this lack of attribution of the miracle to Hashem cost them dearly. But the Ohr Hachaim challenges this xplanation, too.

In short, we don’t know what the real sin was. When learning this inyan, I am reminded about a Midrash regarding the dor hamidbar. The Midrash says: Fortunate is someone whose sins are few enough to count. If someone’s sins can be counted on one’s fingers, that shows tremendous greatness of the person. The dor hamidbar sinned 10 times – and no more! What a shevach! I think that idea can be applied to Moshe Rabbeinu as well:  Fortunate is Moshe that even the sin he was punished for has to be scrutinized under the microscopic eye of the Rishonim, and even then we can’t figure out exactly what the sin was.

With that introduction, I want to suggest an explanation of the sin of Mei Merivah according to the approach of Rashi.  Obviously, we have to know that when we’re talking about Moshe Rabbeinu, we have absolutely no inkling of what the criticism actually was; everything we’re discussing is purely as a lesson for ourselves, what we can take out of it for our own lives.  Rashi learns that the sin was that Hakadosh Baruch Hu commanded Moshe to speak to the rock, and Moshe Rabbeinu went and hit the rock. Why did Moshe do that?  Rashi brings down a Midrash that says that Moshe Rabbeinu did speak to the rock at first, but the rock he spoke to didn’t give water because it was the wrong rock; the “real” rock, the well of Miriam, was hiding among the other rocks. Moshe Rabbeinu decided that since speech wasn’t working, he had to hit the rock. The rock that he hit was the correct one, and water came out.  I’d like to pose two questions on this Rashi. The first question is: What was Moshe thinking?  If Hakadosh Baruch Hu said speak to the rock, and speech didn’t work, why did Moshe think he could bring forth water through a different method? Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the One bringing out water from the rock – obviously you have to follow His directions for making that happen! Furthermore, when Klal Yisrael challenged Moshe by saying, “What’s the difference which rock you bring the water from? This one, that one, what difference does it make?” Moshe Rabbeinu chastised them, explaining that he couldn’t just bring forth water with his own powers, he had to do it according to the instructions of Hashem. We’re asking the same question about Moshe Rabbeinu: If speaking to the rock didn’t work, you try a new method and you think that will work?  The second question is, the passuk says that the sin showed a lack of faith but where do we see a lack of emunah? The Gemara (Shabbos 97) teaches that when Moshe was sent to redeem Klal Yisrael from Mitzrayim and he said, Klal Yisrael is not going to believe me, Hashem rebuked him, saying, “Klal Yisrael are maaminim bnei maaminim – but at the end, you’re not going to have, sufficient emunah, as the passuk says.  But where do we see a lack of emunah in the incident of Mei Merivah, according to Rashi’s explanation that he hit the rock instead of speaking to it? Maybe he didn’t listen to Hashem fully, but does that mean that he didn’t believe in Hashem?  Unlike Rashi, most of the Rishonim explain that Hashem’s commandment was to hit the rock, not to speak to the rock.  How, then, do they explain the words, “you should speak to the rock?” The Rashbam writes that the way you speak to a rock is by striking it; a rock doesn’t have ears. The language with which you speak to a rock is the language of hitting. With this insight, we can explain both what Moshe was thinking and why there was a lack of emunah in his thought process. After Moshe Rabbeinu spoke to the rock and did not manage to bring forth water from it, presumably a beis din convened to figure out what to do. At this meeting, Moshe Rabbeinu said, “It seems that we have to understand Hashem’s instructions differently. When Hashem said to speak to the rock, He didn’t mean actual speech, He meant speaking to the rock in its own language, by hitting it.” Moshe Rabbeinu wasn’t saying, “Let’s forget about the command of G-d and find our own method”; he was simply proposing a new interpretation of Hashem’s command. This was his deficiency in emunah. Because if you believe in Hashem’s commandment one thousand percent, then you don’t have to come up with new interpretations of Hashem’s words.  If Hashem said, “and you shall speak”, it means to speak. If speaking doesn’t work, then you have to figure out what the problem is, but you don’t have to reinterpret Hashem’s command. So the root of Moshe Rabbeinu’s sin of hitting the rock was his lack of emunah in Hashem’s words.  I once heard a story that illustrates this concept. Someone came to Rav Elyashiv and quoted the Gemara that says that a person who has bad middos can’t learn Torah properly. “I know someone who has terrible middos,” he said, “and this person is a rosh yeshiva! He says shiurim, he writes sefarim, and it’s clear that he can learn. How can this be?”  The person then proposed a new explanation of the Gemara, bringing two Maharals and a Sifsei Chaim and building a whole new explanation based on remez, derush, and sod to reconcile the Gemara. Rav Elyashiv’s response was: If Chazal say that someone who has bad middos can’t learn Torah, and you have a question, there are two possibilities: either you don’t know what it means to have bad middos, or you don’t know what it means to know how to learn.  Just because you have a question about something Chazal said, that doesn’t mean that you have to come up with a new pshat in divrei Chazal, as though Chazal’s words don’t necessarily mean what they say. Of course Chazal’s words can be understood at face value! If you don’t understand it, and you break your head to come up with a new understanding, that’s a chisaron in emunah! What would Moshe Rabbeinu have done if he hadn’t had this chisaron in emunah (on his level, of course)? He would have tried to figure out what the problem was, but without reinterpreting Hashem’s command. Maybe he had spoken the wrong words? Maybe he had spoken the to wrong rock (as indeed Rashi says)? But instead of saying, “The problem is with us, we have a big question,” he decided to say a complicated pshat in Hashem’s command – that speaking didn’t necessarily mean speaking. How many times do we see Gemaras or hear Midrashim of Chazal and try to translate them our own way, according to our own understanding? Sometimes, we resort to derush because the words of Chazal don’t seem to fit into our everyday lives, so we think it can’t actually mean what it says.  A person has to have emunah sheleimah that whatever Chazal say is emes, and when we have a question, a tzaruch iyun, we can blame ourselves for our lack of understanding – but we shouldn’t come up with exceptions and new understandings of Chazal!

By: Harav Hagaon Elimelech Reznik Shlita

From The Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.

Have A Great Shabbos!!


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B’Ha’alosicha 5773: A Flash of Light

Taste of Talmud

There are some actions that we are required to do which are a Mitzvah, some are an Obligation, some a Good Idea, some a Custom, and others which are merely Permissible.  Where does the act of  lighting Shabbos candles fit in?  The Mishna in Shabbos quotes R’ Yishmael as saying that one does not fulfill his obligation of lighting for Shabbos if he uses foul smelling fuel. The Talmud asks: Why not?  Rava answers:  Because he will leave the room where the light is burning due to the foul odor.   Abayei retorts: So let him leave! Rava responds:  “My opinion is that the light of Shabbos is an obligation.  Tosafos and other Rishonim grapple with this terminology and how it answers the question.  The Rosh says that Rava is saying that there is an obligation to derive benefit from the light of Shabbos otherwise one does not fulfill his obligation.  Therefore if you can not stay in the room where the light is burning you have not fulfilled your “obligation.”  Tosafos says that Rava is telling us that besides the obligation of having a light in the house on Shabbos there is an obligation to have a light burning at the Shabbos seudah.  According to the Rosh, one is not obligated to make a Brocha upon lighting the light of Shabbos.  According to Tosafos you are obligated to recite a blessing upon lighting the light of Shabbos. 

Taste of Halacha

1) When there are three or four families all living in the same house, are they each required to light Shabbos lights?  If they are, do each of them recite their own individual blessing? The Shulchan Aruch (OC, 263:8) writes that they should all light a light for Shabbos, however, only one of them recites a blessing.  The Rema writes that we do not follow this custom.  According to the Rema, and agreed upon by the Mishan B­erura, each family recites a blessing on their own individual light.  The Commentators explain that this is because every added light increases the joy of those in the house.  According to this opinion, there is not only an obligation to have a light burning in your home on Shabbos but to increase the oneg, pleasure, of Shabbos with addded lights in every place where you will be on Shabbos. 

2) When a person is away from his home for Shabbos and he is eating in one house but sleeping in another, where does he light the Shabbos lights?  By lighting in the place of your meal you are fulfilling all opinions as to where the light should be lit.  However, if you are sleeping in your own home it is preferable to bring the light of Shabbos into your own home.  (As long as you will derive benefit from them at some point in the evening and there is no fire hazard.)

Taste of Parasha

In the Mishkan, all of the lights of the Menorah turned towards the center light.  Rashi explains that this is to teach us an important lesson.  Hashem does not need us to illuminate His  “House,” the Mishkan.  Similarly, in the Bais Hamikdash, the windows were constructed   wide on the outside and narrow on the inside so that the light from the Mikdash shone out to the world.  This too was to show us that Hashem’s house is the source of light for the world and He does not need external light to eluminate His  “House.”  What, then, is our role in lighting the Menorah?  Rav Yerucham Levovivtz Zt”L. brings out from here a beautiful lesson.  When we do our small part in bringing some light into this world we are the ones that get a lift.  When you raise up, B’ha’alosicha, you are the one that gets a raise.  This is true with the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash, with the lights of Shabbos, and with all Mitzvoth.  Each and every Mitzvah, Obligation, and Custom of our Torah is another precious opportunity to use our talents and abilities to bring a ‘flash of light’ to eluminate our neshama.  When our Neshama is shining brightly then our light fills  the world and spreads Hashem’s light to the world.

This issue is dedicated in loving memory of:

Ahuva Bas Shraga Feivel Mordechai

By: The Friedman Family


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Emor 5773: A Taste of Kehuna

Taste of Parasha

“Speak to the Kohanim.”  Who are the Kohanim, and why do they have added restrictions?  The following story, as told by Rabbi Yissochor Frand Shlita, sheds some light on the matter. When Rav Shimon Schwab (1908-1995) was a young man, he spent a Shabbos with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan Zt”l, the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933). That Shabbos left an indelible impression on the young Rav Schwab, who told many famous stories regarding the events of that weekend. One of those stories contained the following powerful ethical lesson.

The Chofetz Chaim asked Rav Schwab if he was a Kohen or a Levi. Rav Schwab responded in the negative. The Chofetz Chaim (who was a Kohen) told his young guest that it was a real pity that he did not have that status. “Moshiach will soon come and the Kohanim and the Leviim will have a premiere function in the Beis HaMikdash. The rest of the Jewish people will all be excluded. It’s a shame you are not from the Tribe of Levi. You will miss out on all of these holy privileges.”

The Chofetz Chaim then asked Rav Schwab a very strange question: “Why are you not a Kohen?”

Rav Schwab gave the obvious answer. His father was not a Kohen.

But the Chofetz Chaim persisted, “Why wasn’t your father a Kohen?”By this time Rav Schwab grasped that the Chofetz Chaim was leading to a concept that had nothing to do with Yichus [lineage] or genealogy. The Chofetz Chaim asked, “Do you know why your father was NOT a Kohen and my father WAS a Kohen? Because there was once a time in Jewish history, when our teacher, Moshe, called out, ‘Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me.’ My great-great grandfather answered the call and your great-great grandfather did not answer the call. That is why my father was a Kohen and your father was not a Kohen.”

The Chofetz Chaim was not trying to tease, saying “Hah, hah! I am a Kohen and you are not a Kohen”. The Chofetz Chaim did not engage in teasing behavior. The Chofetz Chaim was not trying to “rub in” the fact that Rav Schwab’s ancestor did not respond to Moshe’s call. The point that the Chofetz Chaim was driving home was that sometimes there are occasions in life where the clarion call goes out to rally around G-d’s banner. If upon hearing that call, one rises to the occasion, his actions can have ramifications until the end of time. If one fails to heed the call and does not respond, that too can affect not only the person, but also his children and his grandchildren, for all generations. The point that the Chofetz Chaim was trying to teach to Rav Schwab is that one day he himself might receive such a call, perhaps not in the exact same words, but in a similar way. As a result of the Kohanim’s heightened awareness of their role as servants of G-d, they were given an exalted status Vis-a-Vis their relationship with G-d.  They are commanded to keep to a heightened sense of Kedusha, purity and holiness.  We, in turn were given the Mitzvah of, “Vekidashto,” to make them holy.  We do this by honoring them and giving them precedence.  When we do this, the Chinuch explains, we show that we recognize that service of G-d is of paramount importance in our lives, and that we too are now ready to answer the call of, “Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me.”

Taste of Halacha

Points to ponder:

Does this Mitzvah apply to a Kohen under the age of 13?

Does this Mitzvah apply to a Kohen with a blemish?

Is a Kohen required to respect another Kohen?

Could this Mitzvah be extended to apply to a Talmid Chacham who has devoted his life to the service of G-d?

This issue is dedicated as a merit for the Wolf Family


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Tzav 5773: A Taste of Chometz

Taste of Talmud

Chometz comes in many shapes and sizes.  The Talmud (Pesachim 43) discusses their varying levels of prohibition.  Rabbi Eliezer says the punishment of Kares is only for one who eats Chometz that can be seen.  For eating Chometz in a mixture, a Ta’aroves, there is a negative commandment but not Kares.  Other Chachamim are of the opinion that a mixture containing Chometz does not even carry the punishment of lashes (given for transgressing a negative commandment).     The Talmud says that this dispute boils down to the question as to whether the word KOL (Exodus 12:20), should be taken to include ALL leavened material and their mixtures in whatever shape or form they may come.  The Talmud attempts to bring a proof from a verse in Parashas Tzav.  With regard to the prohibition against eating forbidden fats the word KOL is used.  In that case everyone agrees that the word KOL does include all types of forbidden fat, from all animals.   The Talmud answers that indeed the Chachamim agree in that case, because over there, there is another word that is superfluous, KI, otherwise, it would seem, their opinion is that the word KOL itself is not sufficient reason to include a negative commandment for Chometz that is only mixed into another mixture.


Taste of Halacha

In the laws of Chometz and Matzah (1:7) the Rambam codifies the law in what, on the surface, appears to be following the opinion of the Chachamim.  In the laws of the Mizbaiach (5:5) however he seems to follow the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.  There is a law that KOL, ALL, leavened matter may not be placed on the Mizbaiach.  The Rambam writes that there is a negative commandment to have leavened matter in any amount, in any shape or in any form mixed into an offering on the Altar.  The commentators point out that this law is derived from the word KOL (Leviticus 2:11) as well.  Seemingly, this should only be according to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer who says that the word KOL is significant enough to include all shapes and forms of a prohibition.  The Shaar Hamishpat goes to great lengths to show how the Chachamim actually do agree to the ability to derive this all inclusive nature of a law from the word KOL.  Based on the words of the Pri Chadash and the Ran he shows that it is only by the laws of Pesach that the Chachamim disagree about the usage of the word KOL due to other unique variances in the verses detailing the laws of Chometz.  One of which is the unique conjugation of the word Machmetzes; the other of which is the fact that we need a special verse to create a prohibition for eating a mixture with a high concentration of Chometz.


Taste of Parasha

The Zohar says that Chometz bears the qualities of the Yetzer Horah, while Matzah bears the qualities of the Yetzer Hatov.  By eradicating any vestiges of Chometz from our midst it is possible to come to as lofty a high as on Yom Kippur.  Why is it that we do not feel so inspired by this outward display of eradication of “Evil”?  The Sifsei Chaim says: The answer to this can be understood from an interesting observation made by Rav Yisroel Salanter, Zt”l.  He noticed that the boorish children of Russian peasants who returned from the Czars army reverted right back to their boorish ways.  While in the army they were drilled in cleanliness, order and protocol.  Why did these qualities not stay with them when they returned home?  Rav Yisroel answered that it was because they were conscripted against their will.  They were following the rules begrudgingly and with disdain.  In order for external actions to create an internal change one has to desire to change.  One has to desire to eradicate any vestige of lethargy, haughtiness and   falsehood.  Then, when one spends a period of time searching for anything that has that character and eliminating it from his midst he will be cleansed from those attributes of evil himself.  Furthermore, after spending a week imbibing the humble bread of alacrity, he too, will be filled with feelings of humility and alacrity.


This week’s issue is dedicated by:

 Mr. and Mrs. David Friedman,

Wishing everyone a

Chag Kasher Vesamayach

Have a Great Shabbos


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Vayikra 5773: A Taste of Celestial Accounting

Taste of Parasha

“And it will curry favor for him to atone for him.” (Leviticus 1:4).  What is currying favor for whom?

The Malach Hamaves is the same entity created by G-d to prosecute a sinner; it is also the same entity that we refer to as the Yetzer Hora (Bava Basra 16a).  G-d created this single entity in the world to give us a challenge.  It is a common misconception that when you give in to temptation you have pleased the evil inclination and he will now leave you alone.  The Ramban writes that in truth it is exactly the opposite.  The more a person gives in to the Yetzer Hora  the more he is tempted by it.  As a creation of G-d, the Yetzer Hora himself would much rather see the revelation of G-d in this world.  It is merely his duty to be the seducer / prosecutor / executioner.  When a person chooses the right path and becomes Karov (close) to G-d, then even his evil inclination rejoices.  For example, when a person brings a sin offering he sets himself on a good path; a path that brings him closer to G-d.  Then it can be said about him (the Baal Teshuva) that it (the evil inclination) will curry favor for him and it will atone for him. I.e., then, the evil inclination too speaks positively on his behalf before the heavenly throne.  Rav Yeruchom Levovitz Zt”l, learns from here: When a person uses his past experiences as motivation to repent and sets himself on the right path, then, as our sages teach, “Ze’donos ye’esu kiz’chuyos” sins become like merits.


Taste of Talmud

Pharaoh and his advisors schemed and planned against the Jews.  They knew that G-d punishes measure for measure so they decided to harm the Jews in a way that G-d promised he would not punish the world – with water.  They were mistaken because G-d only promised not to pour a flood onto the world.  This did not preclude Him from throwing evil doers into water.  The Mishna in Sota comments, “So too for good.”  Simply read, this means that G-d will reward a person measure for measure for good as well.  The Tosefta writes that G-d multiplies the reward for good deeds with a far greater ratio than the ratio of punishment for bad deeds.  An example of this is the reward guaranteed righteous Jewish soldiers.  Five of them will be able to vanquish 100 enemy soldiers (Leviticus 26:8).  Another example is the reward given to Miriam for standing by the edge of the river in order to keep an eye on her brother Moshe.  The Tosefta says that she was rewarded 500 times her good deed.  Her reward was that when she was stricken with Tzaraas, the entire Jewish nation waited for her for seven days and did not travel until she recuperated.   Tosafos learns from here  that she must have actually waited for approximately 20.16 minutes, this would make her measure for measure ratio of reward 500 times her good deed.   7 days x 24 hours = 10,080 minutes, divided by 500 = 20.16 minutes.


Taste of Accounting

Tosafos (Sota 11a) asks a question from the story of the Meraglim.   The Jews who complained about the land of Israel were punished, “yom lashana yom lashana”   one year for every day of the Meraglim’s travels.  This is an even greater ratio than 500 times their evil deed!  Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann-Heller, Zt”l, in his classic commentary to the Mishna (Tosafos Yom-Tov, Sota 1:9) answers this question.  He explains that the added years of wandering were actually an aspect of G-d’s mercy to those who were  involved in the sin of the Meraglim.  It was decreed that they would not enter the land, this was a punishment measure for measure for having despised the land.  Had the Jews entered the land sooner, all of these men would have had to die an untimely death.  By extending their travels in the desert, G-d forestalled the death of these men in a manner in which none of them had to die less than 60 years of age.  We find this concept in the mercy shown to a Sota (unfaithful wife).  Although she eventually will perish, if she had merits the merits would forestall her death.  Rabbi Lipmann-Heller proves from here that forestalling a death sentence is actually an aspect of reward, not punishment.  As my Grand-father always says, “I am not a celestial accountant,” however, we do know that there is reward and punishment, and, it is measure for measure.

Have A Great Shabbos!!

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for a Refuah Shelaima for all of Cholei Yisroel.

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Tetzaveh 5773: Finding Success in Succession

Taste of Parasha

In this week’s Parasha, we learn about the office of the Kohen Gadol.  This position was often times passed down from father to son.  How was it decided whether to give the position to his son or not?  A while ago, my uncle, Rabbi Benyomin Friedman, showed me the following beautiful write-up on the topic of succession from Rabbi Baruch Meir Levin.

Taste of Halacha

The positions of Rosh Yeshiva, Rebbe, and the like are not monetary assets belonging to a man, but rather they’re just contractual agreements made specifically with him. Certainly, if an office-manger were to pass away, even in the middle of his contract term, his children would not inherit the right to his job. Why then should these kinds of positions be any different?

However, the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 1:7) rules: Once a king is anointed, this privilege stays with him and his sons forever and ever, for the monarchy is inherited as it says (Devarim 17:20), “… so that he will prolong days on his kingdom, him and his sons amid Yisroel.” …And not only with regard to the kingdom, but rather all positions of leadership and appointments in Yisroel are inherited…. This is provided that the son can fill the place of his father in wisdom and in fear of Hashem.

Thus we see that two important conditions of employment are placed on positions of Jewish leadership. Firstly, the appointee retains his position permanently. Secondly, the person who was appointed to the position is succeeded by his children if they are worthy. Based on this statement of the Rambam, the Rema (Yoreh Dayah 245) rules that someone who was established as the Rav of a community may not be removed from this position as long as he is fulfilling his duties. This is true even if he ascended to that position without explicit consent from the community. The Rema also states that the community must offer the position to the leader’s sons upon his passing.

However, this ruling of the Rema is hardly the last word on the issue. The Chasam Sofer in a famous responsa to the community of Moravia in the year 1830 adds a whole new dimension to the issue. In the question asked to the Chasam Sofer, we find that the Chief Rabbi of Moravia had passed away and the members of the community wanted to know if they were required to fill the position with the Rav’s son; or, were they able to choose someone else whom they felt was more worthy.

In his response, the Chasam Sofer quotes the Posuk in Bamidbar (27:12-23) where Moshe Rebbeinu requests from Hashem, “Let Hashem… appoint a man upon the nation… that will take them and bring them, so that Hashem’s nation will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” Hashem answers Moshe by telling him that Yehoshua bin Nun, Moshe’s primary disciple, will be the next leader of His people. Rashi (ibid.) explains that what Moshe Rebbeinu was really asking from Hashem was to appoint his son as the next leader of Klal Yisroel. Rashi points out that immediately prior to this episode we find a discussion between Moshe and Hashem regarding the inheritance of the daughters of Tzelafchad. Moshe sensed that now would be an opportune time to ask for his own sons to inherit him. However, it was not to be. Hashem chooses Yehoshua. Rashi comments that Moshe’s son was passed over because Yehoshua had more merit, ‘never leaving the tent,’ faithfully serving his master Moshe.  Regarding Rashi’s explanation of this episode, the Chasam Sofer asks the following question. Certainly if Moshe Rebbeinu proposed his son to be the next leader of Klal Yisroel, he must have felt that he was a worthy candidate. Why then did Hashem deny his request? Doesn’t this go against all that we have seen concerning the inheritance of positions of leadership? Furthermore, we see that Aharon Hakohen’s position indeed was passed down to his children.  The Chasam Sofer answers that when it comes to teaching Torah there is no considerations of inheritance, but rather the most worthy is given the position. He proves from various sources in the Talmud and the Rishonim (earlier authorities) that only positions such as that of king, a court sheriff, or a gabbai tzedakkah (administrator of a charity) are heritable. However, the Torah (and by extension, the right to teach it) is considered by our sages to be hefker – ownerless – and everyone has an equal chance to come and claim it. Therefore, since Moshe Rebbeinu’s successor would be responsible to teach the Torah to the nation, there was no special consideration given to Moshe’s sons when deciding who would fill the office.  The differentiation that the Chasam Sofer makes between teaching Torah and other leadership positions is a reasonable one. However, the ruling of the Rema quoted above seems not to support this distinction. The Rema was discussing the position of Rav of a town which ostensibly involves the teaching of Torah to the community, and yet, the Rema rules that the office of Rav should be passed down to the Rav’s son. The Chasam Sofer acknowledges this difficulty and proposes that the Rema was referring to a Rav of a small community whose primary role was to attend to the day-to-day spiritual needs of the community, such as coordinating marriages, funerals, and kosher supervision. These tasks are not directly related to the teaching of Torah and thus the position qualifies as being heritable. However, the position of Chief Rabbi of Moravia about which the Chasam Sofer was asked, primarily involved ruling on the various halachic issues that arose throughout the entire province. That kind of position should be given to the person with the greatest qualifications. It cannot be inherited.  Thus, we can say that the positions of Rosh Yeshiva, Rav, Maggid Shiur, or Mashgiach Ruchani, which are primarily involved in giving shiurim (Torah lectures) or answering halachic inquiries and have little to do with other needs of the community, would not be heritable positions according to Halacha. However, when these positions primarily involve other responsibilities, such as counseling, spiritual supervision, fund raising, etc., then they would be subject to rules of inheritance, provided that the candidate was worthy of the appointment.  A final important point must be made regarding this topic. As previously mentioned, the rationale for conferring the right of inheritance on a communal leadership position rests on the fact that these offices are similar in nature to that of a ruler or king. However, in our day and age the position of Rav or Rosh Yeshiva often does not carry with it any real power or influence. Rather, all matters of importance are in the hands of a board or committee. In a case such as this, the leader would be considered to be a standard employee and his position would not carry with it the right of inheritance.  When all is said and done, it is worthy to take note of what Harav Moshe Shternbuch, shlit”a, says on this issue. He writes that even when Halacha dictates that the community is not required to offer the Rav’s son his father’s position, they should still make a great effort to do so. In Rav Shternbach’s words, “Hakodosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) will give the son extra siyata d’shmaya (heavenly assistance) to carry on his father’s work.” In Responsa 13, the Chasam Sofer clearly rules that even when the position of Rav includes a Torah element, it would still be treated as a heritable office since it includes other responsibilities as well. However, regarding Moshe Rebbeinu’s position as the leader of Klal Yisroel (in responsa #12), the Chasam Sofer considers the position to be one of Torah and thus not subject to inheritance, though it clearly involved many other responsibilities as well (leading wars, etc.). One possible explanation for this seeming contradiction is that it depends on what the position’s primary role is. Moshe Rebbeinu’s primary role was that of transmitter of the Torah, whereas the primary role of the Rav to which the Rema was referring was that of community leader. Alternatively, it is possible that in responsa #13 the Chasam Sofer changed his view on this point in order to conform to the Rema’s ruling.

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For more divrei Torah from Bais HaVaad and Rabbi Levin send an email to: info@baishavaad.com

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for:

The Wolf Family

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Terumah: A Taste of the Chachma of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt”l

Taste of Parasha

“Take for ME a Terumah.  Take My Terumah. A Terumah shall be taken” (Exodus: 25: 2-3). Did you notice the change in syntax?  Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Zt”l did.  The repetition to give of oneself to G-d in three different ways is significant.  The first is referring to taking the time to study G-d’s will.  When you study the will of G-d it is clear that you are connecting to G-d.  There is a “you”and there is a “ME.”  In the second way we connect to G-d it is even more recognizable that we are serving G-d.  We stand humbly before G-d in prayer.  For a moment our soul clings to its maker.  Then there is a third way to give of ourselves to our creator.  We do Chesed.  We do physical acts in a physical world. We build families, we build communities, and we help others.  When we do these acts we may even look like we are taking; but, when done right, these physical actions become a Terumah for Hashem too.  When we are able to take 48 beams and 15 materials, weave them together and make a dwelling place, as it were, for G-d’s presence we are living embodiments of G-d’s will for this world.  This is the third form of Terumah.  This was done by building a Mishkan.  This is done by building our homes according to the specifications of the Torah.  Then even the physical becomes a Terumah for Hashem.

Taste of Chabad

By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Dr. David Barlow of Boston University is known for making patients feel uneasy. If you try to take off your jacket in his office, he stops you and tells you to keep it on. The last thing he wants is for you to feel cool and relaxed when you’re sitting with him. He’s happy to see you as uncomfortable as possible. He wants to see real anxiety.

This is what makes Dr. Barlow one of the most successful therapists today for sufferers of anxiety disorders. Doc Barlow wants his patients to face their anxiety head-on. Why? Because he believes there’s a fear structure wired into their brains, a little beastie with a messed-up mind of its own. To rewire that beast, you’ve got to meet it while it’s alive and kicking, throbbing and pumping red. You’ve got to discover that you can beat it on its own ground.

Two paths beyond nature:

You don’t need an anxiety disorder to have a beast inside. There’s a beast inside all of us. There’s a beast, and you’ve got to hold it tight, restrain it, and harness it. Do nothing, and it will rip you apart and consume you alive, with rage, with passion, with fear, with depression, with stupidities with whatever teeth and fangs adorn this particular beast of yours. Other creatures thrive by following their nature. But you are a human. Human nature demands that you transcend nature.

There are two ways to transcend nature. You could wage an endless war. Or you could transcend in utter peace.

The person we call a tzaddik is one who has walked away from his battle in peace.

What is the tzaddik’s secret? It is his unbounded love. The tzaddik’s soul burns with passion, the ecstasy of his heart bursts into flames—fierce, inextinguishable flames that consume the entire animal, meat, blood and bones, as a burnt offering brought upon a heavenly altar, transforming that beast at its very core, until it is more an angel than an earthly being. The beast of the tzaddik knows reason and bows to it. It willingly offers all its power of passion to the divine soul that has mastered it, and all its brute strength to its service. While the rest of us at best grab the beast by its horns so we can harness its power to plow our fields, the tzaddik has already stripped that beast of its earthiness and taught it to fly to the heavens.

But what power fans those flames? What renders his love so real, so all-consuming?

Behind the tzaddik’s love lies his vision. A vision that pierces beyond the delusions of the human ego, and beneath the façade of corporeal perception. For where you and I see a world, the tzaddik sees Infinite Light. Where you and I see a static image, the tzaddik sees reality refreshed at every moment—as though the frequency of his soul exceeds the refresh rate of creation.  For us, this cold, hard world is the ground of reality. The idea of a Creator, of transcendence, of purpose and meaning—all this is a discovery, a revelation, perhaps even an intrusion for which we must apologize. For the tzaddik, that revelation is the background, the canvas from which all forms emerge.

For us, the world is obvious, and its source a revelation. For the tzaddik, the opposite is true: the Infinite Light is obvious, and the existence of this world an astonishment, a wonder that forever escapes resolution.  If so, for the tzaddik, the animal passions never had any dominion to begin with. For us, the animal is the host, and the divine soul arrives with its baggage as an unwelcome guest. As much as that soul might demand and command and assert its superiority, in the end this body is the meaty and earthy territory of the beast, and our soul is the alien who must bow to its conventions.

But for the tzaddik, G‑d is an absolute, and there is nothing else but G‑d. So too, the tzaddik’s love is absolute, and once ignited, there is nothing left in his heart but that love.  The love burns. A blazing fire. In that fire, there is peace.  While in our fire . . .

While in our fire, there is war. Our own persona is the battleground. The beast remains a beast, ever awaiting its moment to break free of its reins and run unfettered by the nuisances of reason, social propriety and moral decency. Every morning we are faced by a yet more powerful brute, already wise to the strategies the mind used yesterday to thwart it, kicking back with yet greater passion, sharper teeth and longer claws.

Some of us suppress rage that could rip apart our families and friendships. Some hold back burning passions for the forbidden. For others, every day is spent escaping addictions they know are destroying them. In business, not a day goes by without some ethical decision to face head-on. Each with his or her challenge, each with his or her battle. And each time, a victory demands reaching inside and awakening a source of power hidden deep within.

We struggle to touch that source, and at times it may even flicker within us. Perhaps even brightly, if just for a moment. Without doubt, it glows there inside us, like a tiny pilot light that glows at the foot of a cold furnace. It calls out to us, like the voice of a small child calling out from the depths of an uncharted cavern.  And then, it leaves us. Once more, we are on our own.  The light leaves us, the voice quietens, but its power is still there. It is the power of the tzaddik within us. For at that essence-core, he is us and we are him. And so, the power of his love is our power; and with that power, nothing can stand in our way.

And if we will ask the tzaddik, “Please, can’t you share with us your burning love? Can’t we, too, live in serene peace?”

Then the tzaddik will tell us, “But that is not the purpose. That is not why you came to this world. You came here to meet the animal eye to eye, to face it at its most primal level, entrenched at the brainstem, and to rewire it there. I cannot do that, for as long as this love burns bright, the beast does not dare to crawl out of its den. Indeed, it has no substance at all in my world, for it simply dissolves in the light.

“But you will meet it there, in the thick of its darkness. You will struggle to tame it, and it will challenge you. And so you will become yet stronger, stronger than you ever imagined you could be, until the very essence-powers of your soul shall emerge. And that is when the darkness of that beast will truly shine.

“So that you, not I, will change the world.”


This concept is presented in the seminal work of Chabad, the Tanya. It is developed in many maamarim, but see especially the maamarim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt”l that begin with Padah b’shalom nafshi (“He has redeemed my soul in peace”).The latter part is an elucidation of Chapter 27 of Tanya, as it is developed in many maamarim.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads the Ask The Rabbi team at Chabad.com. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth.

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for:

The Wolf Family

Have A Great Shabbos!!

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Mishpatim 5773: Chasidim, Chasidus, Chasid: What really defines a Chasid?

Taste of Parasha

What was the first group of laws to be outlined for the Jews after they received the Ten Commandments?  Mishpatim- fiscal law, laws governing slaves, holidays, converts, adultery and keeping Kosher to name a few.  Is there any rhyme or reason to this potpourri of laws?  The Nesivos Shalom ties them all together based on a discussion in the Talmud.  The Talmud in Bava Kamma (30a) is discussing who can be given the prestigious moniker of, “Chasid.”

Taste of Chasidus

Who is a Chasid?  What is a Chasid?  When is a Chasid?  It depends who you ask.  According to the Talmud there are three requirements for one to be considered a full-fledged Chasid.  1) A Chasid is one who is careful not to damage anyone.  Not with words, not with actions, and not with his possessions.  In short, he must be fluent in the laws of damages.  In this way all of his interactions with others will be with Chesed, kindness.  2) A Chasid is one who has reached a perfect equilibrium in his personal conduct.  He is not a glutton, nor jealous, nor haughty.  He is giving, thoughtful, and wise.  In short, he has internalized all of the lessons of Pirkei Avos.  In this way his personal conduct is with kindness, Chesed.  3) A Chasid is one who is constantly aware of G-d.  He is cognizant of G-d’s kindness at home, at school, at work, and at play.  In order to keep focused on G-d he is fluent in the Laws of Berachos and recites all of the appropriate blessings throughout the year.  His blessings serve as a conduit for G-d’s Chesed to come his way.  I would venture to say that after reaching such lofty heights at Mount Sinai the Jewish nation is being given an all-inclusive guide to being good Jews.  A sampling, or Taste, if you will, of a potpourri of laws that when understood, kept, and internalized give us an appreciation of what does and does not please G-d.

Taste of Talmud

What is the source for the requirement to make a blessing upon a pleasant smell?  King David wrote in Psalm 150, “Every soul shall bless G-d.” The Talmud explains: What is the only pleasure that the soul derives pleasure from: a pleasant smell.  Why do we need a special source to require a blessing on smell?  The Tzlach (Rabbi Yechezkel Landau Zt”l) answers that the body does not derive any benefit from fragrance so we may think that no blessing is recited. Here are two scenarios that our sages deal with.  Does one recite a blessing on pleasant smelling perfume?  Does one recite a blessing upon entering a spice store?  According to Rashi you are only required to recite a blessing upon fragrant oils if there are pieces of the spices blended into the oil and you most definitely recite a blessing as soon as you step foot in a spice merchants store.  According to Tosafos even if you smell oil that merely absorbed a pleasant smell from a spice which was subsequently removed you are obligated to recite a blessing.  According to Tosafos you are only required to recite a blessing in a spice store if the owner is sampling the fragrance for you to smell.  What is the rationale behind their opinions? I would venture to say that according to Rashi you recite a blessing over a strong smell notwithstanding whether or not the purpose of it is for smelling.  Whereas according to Tosafos a blessing is recited on any amount of fragrance so long as it is here for you to smell.  Rabbi Nachum Lansky Shlita told me that the sense of smell is the only sense that was not used by Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden it remains a sense that is untainted.

Here is a link to a class I gave about the laws of Berachos in Annapolis, MD: Berachos Class

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for a refuah shelaima for: Tinok ben Esther Tirza

Have A Great Shabbos!!

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Yisro_5773: Finding your own way may not be the best way

Taste of Parasha

The Medrash says: Yisro made a deal with Moshe Rabbeinu, “You may marry my daughter Tzipporah on condition that you allow your first born son to serve Idols!”  The Medrash also says: Moshe Rabbeinu saw a prophetic vision in which G-d was quoting the words of the great Tanna, Rabbi Eliezer, with regard to the laws of Para Adumah.  Upon hearing this Moshe Rabbeinu says, “I wish Rabbi Eliezer is one of my descendants.  To which G-d responded, “He most definitely is a true descendant of your great son Eliezer.”   The questions abound!  These Midrashim require much explanation.  How could Moshe agree to such terms concerning his Bechor?  What connection is there between Moshe’s second son, Eliezer, and Rabbi Eliezer?  How are these Midrashim connected? In order to understand these Medrashim we will have to delve into the words of Rabbi Eliezer, and their ramifications, in the Talmud.

 Taste of Talmud

The Talmud in tractate Bechoros (19b) asserts that if a three year old cow gives birth to a calf it can be assumed to be a Bechor (first born). This carries with it numerous laws and restrictions.  Tosafos to Avoda Zara (24b) asks: This statement does not fit with the fact that now-a-days cows do give birth prior to this age. Tosafos answers that this is one of the ways in which the natural order of things have changed from the way they once were; Nishtanu Habriyos. In the first Mishna in Tractate Para, Rabbi Eliezer says, the red cow used to make the ashes of the “Para Adumah” can be two years old.  If we follow this train of thought, then this would mean that according to Rabbi Eliezer a Para Adumah may be used even before it reaches the age when it could be a mother cow.  Rabbi Shimon Schwab Zt”l, points out a major ramification which would result from Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion.  The only attempt at a logical justification for the Para Adumah proffered by the Medrash is that it is the mother cow that is coming to clean up the mess of the golden calf.  In other words, by using a mother cow to perform acts of purity we repent and atone for the sin done with a calf.  If, however, the cow which is used does not have to be of calf-bearing age, then we are left with a law which is completely and utterly incomprehensible.   The ability for Jews to keep it is now relegated to the realm of Emunah Peshutah, pure and simple faith.  In other words, we do it because our Sages told us this is the will of G-d.

Taste of Parasha 2

Moshe Rabbeinu carried this Mesorah of Emunah Peshuta and was planning on using it as the focal point of his education plan for his children.  Believe in G-d, trust in G-d, just as your illustrious ancestors have done before you.  Yisro, on the other hand, was a man who came without any previous background or any reason to believe the G-d of the Jews.  His path of life had led him to try out all of the various idolatries that existed in the known world.  He contemplated, he investigated, he meditated, and he questioned.  After going through the scientific process he concluded that there is one G-d and it is the G-d of the Jews.  All else is futile and worthless.  Yisro wanted his first grandson to have the opportunity to achieve clarity of conviction through this same path of trial and error.  Moshe Rabbeinu was ready, although reluctantly, to agree to this process because he knew that ultimately this path also leads its traveler to the proper conclusion.  Moshe Rabbeinu’s preferred method; however, was the path necessitated by the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.  Only with Emunah Peshuta are you able to burn a red cow and sprinkle it on ritually impure people thereby making them pure while making the one performing the procedure impure! This is the path of Emunah Peshutah.  This is the path which does not leave room for temporary lapses in Avodas Hashem. This is the path which is symbolized by the name Eliezer which stands for: Elokei Avi B’Ezri, the G-d of my Father is, was, and always will be there to help me.

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for: Esther Golda bas Devorah Shulamis,

In honor of her Birthday

Have A Great Shabbos!!

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