Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Savo 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת כי תבוא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Savo 5769

Hear the “words”
Parashas Ki Savo is always deemed to be a frightening parashah. Despite its benign beginning, the majority of the parasha discusses the devastating punishment that HaShem will bring upon the Jewish People if they do not observe HaShem’s will. There is even a custom in most synagogues to read the portion of the Tochacha, the Rebuke, in an undertone, and this demonstrates our discomfort with reading this portion of the Torah in public. One must wonder, however, what lesson can be derived by shying away from rebuke. Is being chastised for our misdeeds such a terrible thing? Although we should not be proud of our sins, it would certainly behoove us to listen carefully as the litany of sins is read from the Torah. This will then allow us to examine our ways and repent from those sins that we have committed. What, then, is the meaning of reciting these verses of rebuke in a hushed tone?
Focus on the message, not the medium
Perhaps the answer to this question can be found in a story where a rabbi was delivering a lecture on Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers. In his introduction, the rabbi said, “During the course of our weekly classes I will teach you many important things. You may not like me, you may not like the way I speak, and you may not even like my examples or the words of Torah that I use to deliver my message. Nonetheless, do your best to put all that aside and pay attention to the underlying message. Hear the message and digest it, and if you so desire, embellish it to your own liking. I wish to convey a lesson with my words, so there is no reason for you to get caught up in all the window dressing. We often miss too many important messages because of trivialities.”
All is not lost
Upon hearing the curses that are contained in this week’s parasha, it is certainly easy for one to despair of repenting. We find that the Jewish People themselves despaired of repairing their relationship with HaShem, as they cried out to Moshe, “who can withstand all of these curses?” Moshe hastened to appease them by reassuring them that, despite their repeated sins, HaShem had not annihilated them and He allowed them to continue to exist (Rashi Devarim 29:12).
Blessings and curses are for us to make the right choice
The Medrash (Devarim Rabbah 4:1) states that HaShem declared, “My children! I have not proffered upon you the blessings and curses for your detriment. Rather, I have given you blessings and curses so that you will be able to choose the correct path in life. Once you set forth on the road of good deeds, you will receive the appropriate reward.
This, then, can also be the lesson in reading the Tochacha in an undertone. It is incumbent upon us to hear the “words” of the Tochacha, independent of any fanfare and sensationalism. When we hear the words of the Tochacha and their underlying message, it will be easier for us to understand that HaShem is not seeking to castigate us. In fact, as the Medrash states, the exact opposite is true. HaShem is looking for our betterment, and when we hearken to the words of the Torah, HaShem will allow us to merit repenting from our misdeeds and receive our great reward.
The Shabbos connection
The Holy Shabbos contains one idea that the entire Jewish People can agree upon. Shabbos is a day of rest, when we can distance ourselves from the “noise” that surrounds us the entire week. On Shabbos, we are engaged in prayer, Torah study, and indulging in the delectable Shabbos food. It is important, however, to bear in mind the underlying message of Shabbos, and that is that HaShem wishes that we forge a meaningful and lasting relationship with Him. We can accomplish this by taking a break from the distractions of the weekday and focusing on serving HaShem with an outpouring of love and great joy.
Shabbos Stories
Reb Dovid of Lelov - Is It A Crime To Favor Your Own Child?
Reb Dovid was born in 1746 and was a talmid of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and later of the Chozeh of Lublin. He introduced the Yehudi HaKadosh of Peshischa to the Chozeh. Reb Dovid was the epitome of Ahavas Yisroel in the same way as Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.
Even as a child his Ahavas Yisroel knew no humanly bounds. One day his father bought for him an expensive warm winter coat that he so desperately needed. The next day he found another young boy trembling from the cold. When he returned home without the coat his mother asked him what happened. He saw that had no choice but to tell her the truth. She told him he better go get the coat back before his father comes home or else he will get a serious smacking from his father. Little Dovid answered that not only is he prepared to receive smacks from his father but in order to be Mikayem Kibud Av Vaeim he will prepare the rod so his father does not need to go look for it. In this way his father can take out his frustration because he has absolutely no intention of asking for the coat back.
Once when Reb Dovid’s son fell gravely ill, his chasidim spared nothing in their effort to help him live. They paid for the most expensive doctors and poured their hearts out in tehilim. When the boy recovered they saw Reb Dovid crying and they didn't understand why. He explained that they turned heaven and earth over for his son, but what about any other Yiddishe child who becomes sick, are they less worthy? He once said that he cannot be considered a true Oheiv Yisroel because he loves his children more than other Yidden.
Rav Dovid was able to hide his torah abilities and was thought not to be a great Lamdan. The Chiddushei HaRim once said that the greatness Reb Dovid’s Ahavas Yisroel gave him cover for his incredible prowess in torah. He said that Reb Dovid would sit in the attic learning day and night. By time he was twenty years old he finished Shas 14 times. The Avnei Nezer of Sochatchov similarly echoed these sentiments and said that his mind was from generations long gone by. Furthermore while it is possible to speak of his greatness in revealed torah, it is impossible to describe his greatness in hidden torah.
Rav Dovid started the Lelover dynasty which was one of the first to transplant itself in Eretz Yisroel, as Reb Dovid’s son and successor moved to Eretz Yisroel in the last year of his life. His most famous talmid was Rav Yitzchok Kalish of Vorki the founder of the Amshinover dynasty and a close friend of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. He also made a great impression on Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. Reb Dovid was niftar at the age of 68 on 7 Shevat 5574/1814 the same year as the Magid of Kozhnitz and the Yehudi HaKadosh MiPeshischa. The next year witnessed the Petira of the Chozeh of Lublin and Rav Mendel of Rimanov. Yehi Zichro Boruch! [Reprinted with permission from]
“I am Chani!”
Rabbi Label Lam writes: A woman entered a grocery store and promptly strapped her little daughter into a wagon seat. In the cookie isle the child started to cry out for cookies. The mother looked down at the piece of paper with her shopping list and then calmly declared, “Chani, we just came here for these few items and its home we go, for dinner!” When they went passed the drink department the child ranted and reached for soda while her mother glided by while studying her shopping list and saying again ever so firmly and calmly, “Chani, we already have plenty to drink at home! We’ll be home soon enough.” When they entered the candy department the poor little girl was attempting to climb out of the wagon and would have had it not been for the restraining belt. The mother once again referred to her shopping list and repeated her mantra, “Chani, another few minutes. We have a few items yet to get and then we can go home and make a delicious dinner for Abba.”
When they were already checking out of the grocery store and there within reach was the that maddening impulse buying section with candy bars, magazines and eye glass fixers, the biggest outburst and display of desperation was ready to erupt and it did. Her mom calm and cool now folded her little shopping list and placed it into her pocket book and took out the money to pay for the few chosen items she came into the store to get. She spoke out loud again and clearly stated, “Chani, we’ll be home soon and a healthy, tasty dinner will be served.”
Outside the store, in the parking lot, the mother was putting the grocery bags into the trunk and her daughter was being strapped into her car seat when a man approached her. He said admiringly, “I must tell you how impressed I am. From the moment you came into the store I noticed how badly your daughter wanted this and that and I was amazed how you handled yourself with such composure. It was really something educational to witness how calmly and sweetly you spoke to your little daughter Chani!” The young woman glared at him with a wrinkled brow and a look of incredulity and said, “My daughter Chani? I’m Chani!”
First we visit the Rav
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: As a student in the Ponovez Yeshiva, I would spend some summer days in the resort town of Netanya. One day, I spotted what, to an American seemed like an anomaly: a small Yemenite man, long curly peyos dangling from his darkly tanned olive-skinned face, bouncing up and down as he, dressed in a policeman's uniform, was directing traffic. I had never seen an orthodox policeman, let alone one who had dangling side curls. My propensity to talk to fellow Jews and my inherent fascination with curiosities, spurred me to engage him in conversation.
As we talked, he told me about lineage. I mentioned that my name was Kamenetzky, and he froze in disbelief.
“Are you, by any chance, related to the famous Rabbi Kamenetzky of America who recently visited Israel?”
“Do you mean Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky?” I inquired. When he nodded, in excited corroboration, I added, “He is my grandfather.” It was as if I had sent a charge of electricity through his body!
He beamed at me. “Do you know that your grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky attended my son’s bris, right here in Netanya?”
I did a double take and thought, “Yeah Right! Sure. My 89-year-old grandfather came to Netanya for a Yemenite police officer’s son’s bris.” The man registered my apparent skepticism, and proceeded with the following story. At the time, Kiryat Zanz, the community built by the Klausenberg Rebbe, in Netanya, had recently expanded its medical center. The administrators wanted Rabbi Kamenetzky to see the beautiful facility first hand. The revered sage’s endorsement would surely boost their fundraising efforts. They picked Rav Yaakov up from his accommodations in Jerusalem, and drove him to Netanya. Entering the city limits, Rav Yaakov asked, “Are we going to the hospital?”
When the administrators and the driver, affirmed that destination, Rav Yaakov said, “No, we are going to the Rav. When one comes to a town, his first stop is to see the Rav. After we greet the Rav, we will see the hospital.”
They went to the home of Rabbi Lau, (Israel's current Chief Rabbi) Rav of Netanya, but he was not there.
At that point in the story, the policeman became excited. “Do you know where Rabbi Lau was?” he beamed.
He did not wait for an answer. “Rabbi Lau was at my son’s bris! And a few minutes later, your grandfather arrived as well!”
Read louder
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: After World War II, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Halberstam, of blessed memory, a survivor of the concentration camps held a minyan in the Beth Moses Hospital in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Parashas Ki Savo arrived and with it, the section known as the Tochacha (admonishment), which is filled with foreboding warnings of doom and destruction, lest the Jewish nation stray from the will of G-d.
The verses warn of unimaginable horrors: exile, starvation, rape, robbery, and torture -- to name just a few.
The custom of Jews world-over is to read the verses of Tochacha quietly, so as not to rile up enemies, celestial and otherwise, who may think those calamities a good idea to cast upon the Jewish Nation.
So it was the portion of Ki Savo, and the Klausenberger Rebbe and his minyan of ravaged survivors were about to read the Tochacha and re-live horrors of their recent history through the words of the ancient prophecies.
The Torah-reader started the verses of doom in a hushed tone. He began reading them quietly and quickly. Suddenly the Rebbe banged on his lectern. “Hecher!” he shouted. (Yiddish for louder.)
The reader looked up from the Torah with a puzzled look on his face. Perhaps he was reading the Torah a bit too low. He raised his voice a notch, and continued in a louder undertone. But the Rebbe was not satisfied. “Louder!” he exclaimed.
By now the reader was reading as loudly as his normal recitation, and yet the Rebbe continued to bang on the lectern and exclaim, “HECHER!” The reader could not contain his puzzlement and instead of shouting the portion he stopped and looked to the Rebbe for an explanation.
“We no longer have to read these miserable curses quietly,” the Rebbe exclaimed. “There is no curse we have not experienced. There is no affliction we have not suffered! We saw it all. We lived it all. Let us shout with pride to our Father in Heaven that we have already received all the curses! We have survived these curses, and now it is His turn to bring us the blessings and the redemption!” And with that the reader continued reading the Tochacha loud and clear as if singing an anthem to his nation's tenacity. [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Ki Savo 5769

Is sponsored Lilluy Nishmas
Aryeh Leib ben Dovid
Leo Gelber z”l
Yahrtzeit: 18 Elul
Dedicated by Moshe and Betty Gasner & Family
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת כי תצא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769

Go out with joy
This week’s parasha, Ki Seitzei, commences with the laws regarding the Jewish People going out to battle. Rashi writes that the battle referred to here is a discretionary battle, i.e. the Jewish People are not required to wage war against their enemies. Rather, the battle is one where the nation chooses to expand their territory. It is regarding this battle that the Torah instructs the Jew how to deal with the eishes yifas toar, the beautiful gentile woman who is captured in battle.
Leave depression with joy
The commentators cite a Medrash that offers a different interpretation of this battle. They write that this battle is referred to as a milchemes hayeitzer, a battle against the Evil Inclination. While we may all be familiar with this struggle, one must wonder why the Torah alludes to this battle by stating that one goes out to wage battle against the Evil Inclination. In fact, it would seem that the opposite is true. When one is outside his safe environment and is confronted by the temptation to sin, he should escape inside, similar to the statement of the Gemara (Sukkah 52b) that one who sees this “disgusting one,” i.e. the Evil Inclination, he should bring him into the study hall. What, then, is the meaning of the Medrash that states that one should go out to battle his Evil Inclination? Perhaps we can understand the parallel easier with a teaching from the Lev Simcha, the Gerrer Rebbe (14 Nissan 5658 – 7 Tammuz 5752). It is said (Yeshaya) ki vismicha seitzeiu, you will go out with joy. The Lev Simcha interprets this verse homiletically to mean that one can exit his state of depression and worries by being in a state with joy. Let us delve into this deceptively simple statement.
Going to a Tzaddik helps even more
What is the biggest obstacle that prevents a person from accomplishing feats in this world? Some may suggest that it is lack of discipline and focus, but in truth, there is even a larger component at play. The real barrier between us and our potential accomplishments is a lack of joy. We can illustrate the idea that a lack of joy effects one’s accomplishments with the following story. It is told of the Chassid whose neighbor once asked him about the necessity of his travels to the Rebbe. “Is it not enough”, asked the neighbor, “to pore over the Chassidic and mussar literature in your own home?” The Chassid responded, “when I sit in my house with a book and begin to study, the Evil Inclination eventually gets up and begins to dance on my table, and the Evil Inclination then kicks my book open to the chapter that discusses the inherent weakness of man and how one must exert himself to overcome the Evil Inclination. Upon reading this chapter, I instantly become forlorn, and I am overcome with uncertainty about my ability to best the Evil Inclination. When I travel to the Tzaddik, however, he knows exactly what I am lacking and what I need to repair my faults. He strengthens me and gives me the Tikkun, the rectification that my soul needs.”
During Elul we can come before HaShem with joy
In a similar vein, we can suggest that while one can certainly spend time philosophizing about what is preventing him from serving HaShem properly, he is stilled mired in the mud of his misdeeds and character faults. Yet, when one begins to serve HaShem with joy, he has already left behind his state of depression and now he can truly serve HaShem with joy. This task of serving HaShem with joy should be in our minds in the month of Elul, as we approach the High Holy Days, when we will stand before HaShem in judgment for the past years deeds. Although we must view the Day of Judgment with the utmost seriousness, we are also instructed to prepare for these awesome days with a certain sense of joy, as we are confident that HaShem will vindicate us in his judgment and bless us with a good year.
The Shabbos connection
Shabbos is a day of joy, as it is said (Bamidbar 10:10) uviyom simchaschem uvimoadeichem, on a day of your gladness, and on your festivals, and the Sifri (Ibid) writes that your day of joy refers to Shabbos. Furthermore, in the Shabbos prayers we recite the words yismichu vimalchuscha shomrei Shabbos vikorei oneg, they shall rejoice in Your kingship – those who observe the Shabbos and call it a delight. Given that Shabbos is a day of joy, we should make the most of this opportunity that HaShem has given us and we should delight in the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories
Rebuking for HaShem’s honor
Shlomo Katz writes: One year on Shabbos Shuvah, Reb Elchonon Wasserman z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohel Torah in Baranovitch, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) went to shul to hear the derashah that was scheduled to be delivered by the town’s rabbi. However, a messenger arrived, saying that the rabbi was ill and would not be speaking.
Immediately, the assembled congregates turned to Rav Wasserman and asked him to speak. He refused repeatedly, but the congregation would not take "no" for an answer.
So Rav Wasserman ascended the pulpit and began his remarks as follows: The Torah reports that Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest of all men. How then did he call upon the awesome heavens and earth (in the above verse) to bear witness to his words?
Rav Wasserman answered his own question: The key is found two verses later, where we read, “When I call out the Name of HaShem, ascribe greatness to our G-d.” I am not speaking for my own honor, nor are these my own thoughts, Moshe Rabbeinu was proclaiming. The words of rebuke that I (Moshe) will speak are the words of the Torah, and they are spoken for G- d’s honor.
You, too, may wonder - Rav Wasserman concluded his introduction - who I am to rebuke you. Know, therefore, that everything that I will say will be the words of the Torah and will be spoken for G-d’s honor alone. (Otzrosaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.621)
One can change any time
“For they are a generation of reversals . . .” (Devarim 32:20)
Reb Yisroel Alter z”l (the Gerrer Rebbe; died 1977) would not permit the shteibels / small prayer and study houses of his followers to expel any member, even if he seemed to behave in a manner unbecoming of a chassid and member of the community. The Rebbe explained that so long as the individual continued coming to the shteibel, that alone was reason to hope that he would someday mend his ways.
As support for his position, Rav Alter quoted the interpretation of our verse offered by R' Zusia z”l of Annipol (late 18th century chassidic rebbe): “They are a generation of reversals” - the Jewish People of our time are wont to change their nature suddenly and unpredictably. Thus, someone who was, one day, headed in the wrong spiritual direction may unpredictably change course at any time. (Otzrosaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.622)
Love for a son, love for a father
Rabbi Frand writes: I recently heard the following true story: A father had a son who (as is all too often the case) was having problems during his teenage years. The son was not acting as he should and he gave his father much grief. In hope of putting the son on the right path, the father sent him to Eretz Yisroel with the hope that somehow in the Holy Land, the boy would straighten out. In Israel, the son visited a psychologist who had some success with the lad. The father visited the son that year and decided to go speak to the psychologist himself to hear firsthand how his son was doing. The psychologist explained to the father that the problem he was having with his son could be traced back to unresolved issues that he (the father) was having with his own father.
The person heard what the psychologist said and understood it. But when he came back to America, he really did not act upon it. Several months later, however, a friend of the boy’s father lost his own father and was sitting shiva. The father went to visit his friend who was mourner the loss. The mourner made the following comment: “I lost the person in the world who loved me the most. No one loved me like my father.”
When the father with the problem son heard this comment, it stuck with him. He deeply wished that he could make a statement like that about his own father. He wished that he could feel he had a father who loved him. He decided that the next time the Israeli psychologist came to America, he would make an appointment to see him together with his own father so that the two of them could try to work out their issues. And so it was. The psychologist came to America. The father went to his own father – a European Jew, a holocaust survivor – and said “I want to go with you to a psychologist.” He explained, “Our relationship has suffered for years. Maybe we can do something to improve it.”
Much to his surprise, the father agreed and thus the “grandfather” and the “father” went to the psychologist and had a session. At that session, when the “grandfather” began telling over his life story – the events that happened before, during, and after the holocaust -- how he was instrumental in saving members of his own family from death and so on –- the “father” suddenly had an amazing epiphany. He turned to his father and said. “I never knew this about you! You are a hero! I never knew this. The only thing I knew about you was that I was afraid of you.”
The “grandfather” turned to his son and said, “I love you more than anything else in the world.” Those words that the son (now a middle aged man) was longing to hear his whole life, he now heard from his own father. This “father” then had an even greater epiphany and an even greater awakening: “If my father who is flesh and blood loves me that much, then how much more so does the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe] love me!” This awakening changed the person's entire relationship not only with his own father, but with his Father in Heaven. [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Please send email to
View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Shoftim 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת שופטים תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Shoftim 5769

Judges and kings
In this week’s parashah we learn of the mitzvah of appointing Shoftim, judges, and subsequently we learn of the mitzvah to appoint a king over the Jewish People. While the function of the judge is to adjudicate rulings between quarreling parties, the function of the king is to rule over the people in a fair but firm manner. The question, however, is why the Torah mentions a reward for the people if they appoint proper judges, whereas there is no mention of any benefit to the people if they appoint a worthy king. To compound this issue, the Radak (Shmuel I 8:5) elaborates on the issue of why HaShem was disturbed when in the times of Shmuel, the Jewish People asked for a king, if the Torah itself lists the appointment of a king as a mitzvah. The Radak suggest that the fault of the people was that they requested a king for their own purposes and with this they demonstrated a lack of faith in HaShem. There is, however, another issue that must be examined regarding the two mitzvos of appointing judges and of appointing a king.
Justice creates kindness
It would seem that the two mitzvos of appointing judges and appointing a king are mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, given the fact that both of these mitzvos are enumerated consecutively in the same parasha, the Torah may be alluding to a profound idea that is applicable in our daily lives. The appointment of judges is necessary as people are by nature contentious, and the judges will be able to arbitrate disputes. The necessity of a king, however, is not as apparent. It is said (Mishlei 29:4) melech bimishpat yaamid aretz, through justice a king establishes a land. The Sfas Emes (Shoftim 5654) notes that the world was created with kindness, so it would seem that justice is the antithesis of the world’s existence. The answer to this question, writes the Sfas Emes, is that when we mete out justice amongst ourselves, and certainly when one judges himself by reflecting his ways, then HaShem is aroused to mercy and the justice is sweetened. Thus, it is essentially through justice that the world is sustained.
A king leads to fear of Heaven
Let us then examine the function of the king. In essence, the king performs the same function as the judge, and that is to arbitrate justice. Yet, the Torah does not mention any aspect of justice regarding the appointment of a king. Rather, the Torah focuses on the king carrying a Sefer Torah with him at all times, so that he will learn to fear HaShem. The Sfas Emes (Ibid 5664) explains that the Jewish People only required a king when they were lacking in their fear of Heaven. The king himself would draw his fear of Heaven from the Torah. Thus, Shmuel rebuked the nation for requesting a king, because if they had the proper fear of Heaven, they would not need a king. Once they did not have the requisite fear of Heaven, a king for a king was a mitzvah as by having a king they would gain fear of Heaven. The Sfas Emes adds that through the fear of a gentile king, one could come to fear of punishment, whereas through a Jewish king, one can attain the level of fear that is referred to as yiras haromimus , fear of the exalted one. The reason of this is because HaShem chooses the Jewish king and the people are then afraid of the king, and this leads them to fear the exaltedness of HaShem. Ultimately, every Jew is required to have this yiras haromimus so that the fear of HaShem permeates everyone that the person comes into contact with.
The Shabbos connection
Based on the words of the Safes Ems regarding the function of a king, we can better understand the juxtaposition of the two mitzvos of appointing judges and appointing king. The appointment of judges is so that fear of punishment is instilled within the people. Appointing a king, although not desirable, achieves the result of instilling in the Jewish People a fear of HaShem’s exaltedness. In a similar vein, throughout the week we perform mitzvos and desist from sinning because we are afraid of HaShem’s punishment. On the Holy Shabbos, however, when, in the words of the Zohar, kol dinin misabrin minah, all judgments depart from her, there is only love of HaShem and fear of His exaltedness. It is for this reason that in the Shabbos prayers we constantly recite the words yismichu vimalchuscha, rejoice in Your kingship, as on Shabbos we need not be afraid of HaShem’s Divine Justice. Rather, we fear HaShem for His exaltedness, and this fear facilitates our outpouring of love for HaShem.
Shabbos Stories
Shabbos belongs to every Jew
When the fourth Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisroel, lived in Haifa, his chassidim would gather under the balcony to his house every Seudas shlishis (third meal on Shabbos), and the Rebbe would give over his most inspirational words of Torah for the week. On one particular Shabbos, after the Chassidim had congregated under the balcony, the Rebbe was nowhere to be seen. His Chassidim looked around until someone spotted the Rebbe at the corner, bent over, talking to someone in a car at a red light. Word spread among the group, and no one could believe the site! There was the Rebbe talking to someone in a car on Shabbos! A few Chassidim rushed over, and overheard the following being said by the Rebbe in a voice of great enthusiasm: “Yes, it’s yours too! It doesn't only belong to me; it belongs to you as well! Shabbos is for every Jew. It doesn’t matter that I dress one way and that you dress another. Each one of us is a tzelem Elokim (created in the image of G-d). Perhaps you’ve never been privileged to experience the joys of Shabbos, so now it is time!” With that the Rebbe invited the man in the car over for the following Shabbos. He pointed to the house, and told him that he would be in for otherworldly pleasures if he were to come. The man became a frequent guest of the Rebbe and, in time, became shomer Shabbos.
Kindness will work better
In a similar story a number of years ago there was a young rebel who decided to go speeding through the streets of Mea Shearim on a Shabbos afternoon with his radio at full volume. As you could imagine, the indignant shouts of “Shabbos, Shabbos!” could be heard block in and block out. The indentations on the car from the stones hurled by angry Chassidim had already become evident after a few blocks. But at the end of a long street, up which this driver was heading, stood a Chosid. Bedecked in shtreimel, bekishe, and full Shabbos regalia, he stood firmly and resolutely in the middle of the street with his hand straight out. The driver had no choice but to stop. The Chosid let down his arm, and walked to the driver’s side of the car. “How would you like to come to my house for a Shabbos meal?” he asked warmly with a bright smile on his face. “How would I like to what???” asked the driver. The Chosid repeated, “How would you like to come to my house for a Shabbos meal? I would LOVE to have you at my house for a Shabbos meal.” The driver was dumbfounded! What happened to all of the yelling? What happened to all of the hateful stares? He literally didn't know how to react. The Chosid continued, “Perhaps you’ve never celebrated a Shabbos in full form. I want to show you what it's like. I would really love to have you over next week.” After a few more minutes of convincing, the driver really didn’t know what else to do but accept. He took the address, managed to find a yarmulke the next week, and actually made it to the chosid's house for Shabbos. The rebel had no idea that one day he would become shomer Shabbos.
A father to the community and a Rebbe at home
Shortly after he had arrived in America, a young Chassid was discussing the naming of his newly born son with the Satmar Rav, in the presence of another rabbi. “My grandfather was a very good Jew,” he said.
“His name would be a fine choice for your son,” commented the Rebbe.
“But several of my nephews and cousins already carry his name. On the other hand, my father-in-law has no one named after him.”
“That should certainly be taken into consideration.”
“However …”
And so it continued. After the young father left, the other visitor asked the Rebbe why he permitted himself to become so involved with trivia.
“In the old country, I was a father at home, and could be a Rebbe in the city. But here,” the Rebbe sighed, “this is simply not suitable. I have to be a father to my community, and a Rebbe at home.”
A limit to the teasing
An alumnus of a Lithuanian-type yeshiva in Israel sat near the Rebbe at his Pesach Seder. The Rebbe was amused at his guest’s pompous measuring of the precise portion of food and drinks required for the rituals (even though the Rebbe himself was no less fastidious). As the guest prepared his matzos, the Rebbe asked him, “Are you sure it’s the right shiyur (required amount)?” Similarly, after he ate the marror, and later when he eyed his afikomen before consuming it, the Rebbe smilingly asked, “Is it the shiyur?”
Finally, the fellow put down his matzah and said, “Rebbe I’m not sure. But isn’t it the shiyur of tcheppen (teasing)?”
The Rebbe was deeply disturbed that he had actually offended the man with remarks that he had only meant as a friendly exchange. He begged his forgiveness again and again, as was his habit when he felt he had mistreated someone. Finally he asked him, “Please see me right after Yom Tov.”
When the man reported to the Rebbe, he asked, “Why are you here? Why did you come to America?”
“I’m here because I must raise five to six thousand dollars to marry off my daughter.”
“I’ll get the money for you. And please - any children that you will be marrying off in the future - come here and I’ll take care of your financial needs.”
The Satmar Rav was not satisfied until he had financed the weddings of the man’s four daughters.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Shoftim 5769
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Re’eh 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת ראה תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Re’eh 5769

The need to be vigilant throughout the month of Elul
The month of Elul is approaching. What is required of us in this month of awe? The Medrash (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer §46) states that on the first Rosh Chodesh Elul that the Jewish People were in the Wilderness, Moshe blew a Shofar, signifying to the Jewish People that they should be on guard when Moshe ascended upon high. This sounding of the Shofar would ensure that they would not succumb to the temptation of sinning through idolatry as they had a mere few months earlier. This Medrash reflects on the essence of Teshuva, repentance. The Jewish People had committed a grievous sin by worshipping the Golden Calf. Moshe entreated HaShem that He should not destroy the Jewish People and that He should grant them forgiveness. Yet, prior to ascending to Heaven to receive the second Luchos, Moshe still felt it necessary to warn the Jewish People not to sin again. Was Moshe really concerned that after experiencing severe repercussions upon worshipping the Golden Calf, the Jewish People would actually have the audacity to commit the same sin again?
Constant state of repentance
The answer to this question is that although there may not have been a serious concern that the Jewish People would sin again, Moshe sought to demonstrate to the Jewish people that one must always be cognizant of the possible temptations to sin. Teshuva is not merely a once a year obligation. Rather, one must constantly aware that the temptation to sin lurks just around the corner. In a similar vein, it is well known that Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon said that he felt the need to repent daily for his lack of recognition on the previous day of HaShem’s greatness. This form of repentance is also an indication of vigilance, in that one does not rest on his laurels. Rather, he constantly seeks to improve his relationship with HaShem.
The sounding of the Shofar reminds us to be vigilant
The sounding of the Shofar, in addition to arousing us to repentance, is also a signal of vigilance. It is said (Amos 3:6) im yitaka shofar bair viam lo yecheradu, is the shofar ever sounded in a city and the people not tremble? This refers to the initial arousal that one experiences with the sounding of the shofar. Yet, there is another dimension to the sounding of the shofar, and that is the cognizance of being vigilant from the attack of the Evil Inclination. It is said (Bamidbar 10:9) vichi savou milchama biartzichem al hatzar hatzoreir eschem vahareiosem bachatzotzros, when you go to wage war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of the trumpets. In the simple sense, the purpose of these trumpet blasts is to arouse the nation to battle against their enemies. On a deeper level, however, the Torah is teaching us that when one is vulnerable to the enemy, he must be vigilant so that the enemy cannot attack. Perhaps this is why the Torah states al hatzar hatzoreir eschem, against an enemy who oppresses you. It would have been sufficient to state against your enemy, as it is obvious that the enemy oppresses. The reason that the Torah states that the enemy “oppresses” alludes to the Evil Inclination, who is constantly seeking ways to destroy his opponent. When one is vigilant, he will not allow his Evil Inclination to gain a foothold in his territory. Evidence to this idea can be found in the words of the Lev Simcha (Ki Savo) who writes that when the Torah instructs a person regarding building a fence around his roof, it is said (Devarim 22:8) ki sivneh bayis chadash viasisa maakeh ligagecho, if you build an new house, you shall make a fence for your roof. The words a new house allude to Rosh HaShanah and the words you shall make a fence allude to the month of Elul. Thus, we see that the month of Elul is a time for one to be extra vigilant so that he does not become tempted by sin.
The Shabbos connection
HaShem, in His infinite kindness, granted His beloved children one day a week, and that is the Holy Shabbos, when we do not have to be concerned for the overtures of the Evil Inclination. On Shabbos we are engaged in spiritual pursuits, and sin should be the last thing that is on the mind of a Jew. Hashem should allow us to enter into the month of Elul with recognition of the seriousness and awe that these days entail, and we should merit repenting completely before HaShem, Who desires our repentance.
Shabbos Stories
R' Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan z”l Hy”d
Shlomo Katz writes: This Shabbos is the tenth yahrzeit of R’ Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist in his home in Chevron. R’ Raanan was born in Yerushalayim on 12 Tishrei 5694 (1934). His mother, Batya Miriam, was a daughter of Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. His father, R’ Shalom Natan Raanan, was a teacher in, and director of, R’ Kook’s yeshiva (now known as Merkaz HaRav). The child was named “Eliyahu” for the Vilna Gaon and “Shlomo” for his great-grandfather, R’ Shlomo Zalman Kook.
R’ Kook passed away before his grandson’s first birthday, but the future R’ Raanan grew up in his illustrious grandfather’s house, which also housed the yeshiva. When he was old enough, R’ Raanan himself enrolled in the yeshiva.
While he was still single, R’ Raanan began teaching in several yeshivos ketanos/ schools for pre-teenage and teenage boys. He also worked with new olim. In 1978, R’ Raanan joined the staff of the Halacha Berurah institute, which publishes Torah works designed to bring to fruition one of R' Kook's educational goals - to tie together the advanced study of Gemara as practiced in mainstream yeshivos with the study of the practical halachic/legal conclusions that flow from each Gemara passage.
In 1963, R’ Raanan married Chaya Weisfish. After living in Yerushalayim for more than 20 years, in 1985, they joined the tiny settlement which is now the city of Beitar. For six years, the Raanans lived in a caravan (trailer) in Beitar under very difficult conditions. In 1992, they moved to Chevron, settling in the Admot Yishai / Tel Rumeida neighborhood believed to be the site of the Biblical city. Here again, their home was a caravan, an inconvenience which they gladly accepted for the sake of settling the Land of Israel.
Those who knew R’ Raanan used to say that he had a “soul of Shabbos,” which in chassidic and kabalistic literature refers to a certain purity of the soul and calmness of manner that characterize Shabbos. Indeed, Rebbetzin Chaya Raanan related that on their first date, she had absent- mindedly pulled a leaf from a branch as they walked and she was momentarily horrified at having violated a Shabbos prohibition. Suddenly she realized, however, that it was not Shabbos, but rather a weekday. Such was the aura that surrounded R’ Raanan and affected those who knew him!
The caravan where R’ Raanan was murdered today houses a kollel named Ohr Shlomo in his memory. (Source: Neshamah Shel Shabbos)
You are HaShem’s children
Shlomo Katz writes further: The legendary chassidic master, Reb Zusia, once heard an itinerant maggid/preacher deliver a fire-and-brimstone speech to a large group. When he finished, no one seemed to have been moved by his words. Then R’ Zusia rose and said, “Dear brothers! Doesn’t HaShem love you and care for you? How is it possible to transgress His will?” Immediately, heart-rending cries filled the synagogue.
Afterward, the maggid asked R’ Zusia, “Did I not portray in vivid detail the terrifying punishments of Gehinom? Why did that have no impact on them, while your words, which were not frightening at all, had an immediate effect on them?”
R’ Zusia answered: “Your words had the effect of closing their hearts, scaring them until they could no longer feel. My words had the opposite effect.”
Jewish until the very end
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Velvel was infamous in his native Tarnogrod. A notorious gangster, he not only transgressed the mitzvos, but mocked those who observed them. He really did not have much to do with the members of the community, if not to lure someone into a promising business deal, only to rob him of his ill-invested monies.
Velvel rarely visited the inside of the shul, save every few years on the yahrzeit of his pious father when the cobwebs of time were dusted off by the winds of guilt. Yes, Velvel was different than most of the villagers.
Except for early 1940, when he was no different than anyone else. The Nazis had overrun the town. They herded the community into the shul, and unfurled the Torah scrolls on the floor. Then they lined the people up and told them to march on the Torah, forcing them to spit on it as they past. And Velvel was right there amongst them. Velvel was a Jew and no different from anyone else.
Everyone lined up to obey and Velvel pushed to be first on line. And then he showed how special, how different he was. As he approached the Torah he stopped short, not even letting the tips of his soles touch the sacred parchment. Then he turned to the SS officer. “I don’t tread on my Torah and I will never spit on it.” They shot him on the spot, and like the rest of the villagers who followed suit, Velvel became a holy martyr. (Reprinted with permission from
Collecting charity on condition
Reb Yechezkel of Shinova the son of Reb Chaim of Sanz wanted to collect money for a worthy cause. Before doing so, though, he asked his father's permission. “I agree,” said Reb Chaim, provided that it doesn’t result in animosity against Jews.”

“What do you mean, Father?” asked Reb Yechezkel.

“What I mean,” said Reb Chaim, “is that as you go from one person to another and seek a donation, you may feel inwardly that this one person should have given more, that another person should not have turned you down, and so on.”

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Re’eh 5769
Is sponsored by Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Adler from Chicago in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their dear grandson,
Yisroel Meir (Sruly) Adler, of Oak Park, Michigan.
HaShem should allow his parents to raise him litorah ulichupah ulimaassim tovim.
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
For sponsorships please call
To subscribe weekly by email
Please send email to
View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Eikev 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת עקב תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Eikev 5769

Transforming what we trample on towards HaShem
This week’s parasha, Eikev, is unique that there does not appear to be an underlying theme to the parasha. The parasha commences with the blessing that the Jewish People will receive when they follow Hashem’s instructions. The Torah then exhorts the Jewish People that upon entering Eretz Yisroel they should not be intimidated by the might of the nations. Moshe continues to warn the Jewish People not to forget that HaShem is the One Who provides them with their sustenance. The Jewish People are then reminded of their sin that they committed by worshipping the Golden Calf and how subsequently Moshe received the second set of Luchos. The end of the parasha discusses the love that HaShem has for the Jewish People and the requirement to love HaShem and perform His will. What, then, is the message that the Torah is conveying to us in this week’s parasha?
Subjugating all our desires to HaShem’s will
The Pinei Menachem writes that all of one’s desires must be subjugated to HaShem. It is said (Eichah 1:11) nasnu machmadeihem biochel lihashiv nafesh, they traded with their enemies for food to restore the soul. The Arizal understands this verse to mean that one has to give up his desires to restore his soul. On Shabbos, writes the Pinei Menachem, one is granted a neshama yeseira, an extra soul. The purpose of this gift is so that one can have his soul restored, as we know that the Gemara (Taanis 27b) states that when Shabbos ends, avdah nefesh, one loses the extra soul.
No more trampling on insignificant matters
Based on this insight we can better understand the theme of this week’s parasha. We are constantly reminded that our accomplishments are not our own. Everything that we accomplish is because HaShem gave us the strength to do so. Perhaps this is the meaning of what Rashi writes in the beginning of the parashah. It is said (Devarim 7:12) vihayah eikev tishmiun, this shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances. Rashi writes that the word eikev can also mean heel. Thus, the Torah is stating that when one performs mitzvos that one normally tramples on with his heel, then he will be rewarded. This teaches us that even the so-called insignificant matters in life also must be subjugated to HaShem’s will.
The Shabbos connection

Regarding Shabbos it is said (Yeshaya 58:13) im tashiv miShabbos raglecho, if you restrain your foot because it is the Shabbos. This verse can be interpreted homiletically to mean that on the Holy Shabbos, one should even restrain his hergel i.e. that which he does by rote, and even those actions should be transformed into actions of holiness in the service of HaShem. It should be HaShem’s will that we will be able to direct all of our actions and our thoughts towards performing His will, and then we will merit that He will do our will and bring us the much awaited salvation, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Someone cares
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: Recently, to our great sorrow and grief, the children of the Bobover Rebbe zt”l observed the customary shiva (seven day) period following his death. As is to be expected, the amount of people, both men and women, who came to be menachem aveil (comfort the mourners) was both inspiring and overwhelming. From all over the world, people flocked to Boro Park, Brooklyn, to comfort the family and pay their last respects to the memory of the Rebbe.
Entire volumes could be written based solely on the stories and anecdotes related to the Rebbe zt”l’s family over those few days. Amazingly, a number of women who came to comfort the Rebbe's daughters told of an almost identical experience. One of them told her story as follows:
“I am a divorcee. I have no children and very little family. I live a very lonely life. I was told that the best time for me to go to the Rebbe was late at night, when all the other visitors had already left, so that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable sitting around in a roomful of men awaiting my turn. I was the last person to see the Rebbe that night.
When we had finished talking, the Rebbe asked my how I planned to get home. I told him that I didn’t live far away, and I was going to walk.”
‘So late at night?’ the Rebbe asked. ‘No - you can’t walk!’ The Rebbe picked up the phone, and called me a car-service. ‘Go downstairs,’ he said, ‘I’ll be there soon.’
“I went downstairs to wait for the car-service. Soon afterwards, the Rebbe was there too. He waited until I was safely in the car, and only then did he retreat into his house.
“Soon after I arrived home, my telephone rang. ‘Who could possibly be calling this late at night?’ I thought. It was the Rebbe. ‘Hello - this is the Bobover Ruv. I just wanted to make sure you arrived home safely.’ ‘Yes, thank you Rebbe, I'm fine.’
“Now I know, I told myself, why I went to the Rebbe. Because he cares. Sometimes the burden of being alone is too much to bear. After all, who really cares if I get home safely, or if I was run over by a car, G-d forbid? No one knows, and no one cares. So what if I die? The fact that the Rebbe actually cared whether or not I got home safely meant so much to me. It gave me the courage and strength to go on living.”
How can you not study Torah?!
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rav Yitzchok Zilber, founder of Toldos Yeshurun, an organization that re-educates estranged Russian Jews about the heritage that was snatched from them, is known as the Father of contemporary Russian Jewry. A native of Kazan, Russia, Rav Zilber was born just before the Russian Revolution in 1917, but was discreetly taught Torah by his revered father and not only completed Shas several times during his years in Russia, but also taught Torah to many others. During World War II, he was imprisoned in Stalin’s gulag, yet he managed to remain Shomer Shabbos despite the inhumane conditions. He later had to flee from the KGB, which wanted to arrest him for his Torah activities in Russia. In 1972, he immigrated to Israel. As he walked off the airplane on his arrival in Israel, he embraced the custom agent.
“Chavivi! My dear one!” shouted Rabbi Zilber as he gave the man a bear-hug embrace. “It is so wonderful to be here and talk to a Jew like a Jew!” The man offered a polite smile and a pleasant Shalom.
“Please tell me,” pleaded Rabbi Zilber with an intensity that seemed to announce a question whose answer would solve all the problems facing Jews for the millennia. “For years I am struggling with this problem. Please tell me, how did you understand the Ketzos HaChoshen on the sugya of Areiv?” (The Ketzos HaChoshen is a classical commentary on the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, Code of Jewish Law.)
“Ma zeh Ketzos HaChoshen (what is a Ketzos HaChoshen)?” came the reply.
Rav Zilber was puzzled. He tried another query. “Maybe you can explain how you understood the Mishna in (tractate) Uktzin in the last chapter.”
“Mishna? Uktzin? Ketzos? What are you talking about?”
Rav Zilber, recalling the difficulties he had trying to teach and study Torah in Russia was mortified. In honest shock, he asked the man. “how is this possible? You mean to tell me that you live here in Israel and have the ability to learn Torah. And you don’t know what the Ketzos is? You never heard of Mishna Uktzin?”
Rav Zilber began to cry.
They say that the customs agent was so moved by Rabbi Zilber’s simple sincerity that he began to study Torah. (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Eikev 5769
I will not be giving a class in Navi this Shabbos afternoon.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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