Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5770

שבת טעם החיים לך לך תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5770

Fleeing Evil
In this week’s parasha, we find an interesting pattern. The parsha commences with HaShem instructing Avraham to leave his homeland and travel to the Land of Canaan. Avraham was then forced to leave the Land because of a hunger and he descended to Egypt. Pharaoh took Sara and was then struck by a plague. Sensing that Avraham’s presence was detrimental to the Egyptian welfare, Pharaoh sent Avraham away. Further on we find that Avraham and Lot parted ways because of the dispute amongst their shepherds. The Torah then describes the battle of the four kings and the five kings, in which the kings of Sodom and Amorah fled and fall into the wells, and the other kings led to the mountains. Avraham is then informed by the palit, the fugitive, that his nephew Lot was captured. Following the battle, HaShem made a pact with Avraham, and Avraham took various animals and cut them up. Birds of prey descended upon the carcasses and Avraham drove them away. HaShem then promised Avraham that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt and then they would leave with great wealth.
Evil leaving
The Torah then describes how Sara took Hagar as a second wife. Sara then became angry at Hagar and she chased her away. All these incidents reflect on the concepts of fleeing and departure. The parasha culminates with HaShem instructing Avraham to perform Bris Milah. This act involves the removal of the foreskin. All these seemingly unrelated episodes correlate as they signify the idea of departing or fleeing from the evil influences and cleaving to the good. Thus, the initial instruction that Avraham received to leave his homeland culminates with the mitzvah of Bris Mali, a physical manifest of removing the excess and undesirable and striving for the good.
Bris Milah and Eretz Yisroel
The Medrash states that in the merit of Bris Milah, the Jewish People will inherit Eretz Yisroel. In the simple sense this means that Bris Milah is a covenant between us and HaShem, and settling peacefully in Eretz Yisroel is a reflection of that covenant. On a deeper level, however, Bris Milah signifies removal of the undesirable and seeking a closer relationship with HaShem. Dwelling in Eretz Yisroel also reflects on our unique relationship with HaShem, as the Medrash states that one who dwells in Eretz Yisroel dwells there without sin.
The Shabbos connection
In a similar vein, throughout the week we are tempted by foreign influences that threaten to sabotage our spiritual ascent. HaShem has proffered on us His Holy Shabbos when all harsh judgments depart and we can focus on becoming holy and pure. This increased level of sanctity should allow us to become closer in our relationship with HaShem. We will then merit being true descendants of Avraham Avinu, of whom it is said (Yeshaya 41:8) zera Avraham ohavi, offspring of Avraham who loved me.

Shabbos Stories
Praying on Wings of Devotion
Rabbi Aharon Roth, popularly called Reb Arele, formed a new Chasidic group last century based on total self-sacrifice in davening, as taught by the Baal Shem Tov.
The following article was published [long ago] in the Hungarian literary monthly, “The Jewish Future,” by Dr. Frishman, the personal doctor of Rebbe Arele Roth." In it, Dr. Frishman tells how under the Rebbe's influence he became a baal teshuvah.
The long delicate lines on his face that was surrounded by a black beard and his sunken cheeks expressed a deep pain that emanated from severe bodily suffering. His frail body seemed ready to collapse under the burden of suffering, yet his eyes reflected a sea of calmness and a world of gentleness; wondrous lights shone in them.

For four weeks no food had entered his mouth; and in fact, he didn’t have anything to eat. All that he had he gave away for Tzedakah. He never let a single coin stay overnight in his home. The great city, blessed with a large Jewish population, had so many overwhelming problems that it gave no thought to the tzaddik who lived within it. She never lifted him up on her palms, and so the little that he had he gave to those who were needier than him.

He was not needy for food, and even if he wanted to eat he couldn’t. His body was made lean by fasts and self afflictions, and everything that entered his mouth, he vomited out. Even his body recoiled from the pleasures of this world; all of him yearned for the world above.

So now, I was called to him: His afflictions had become more severe and hindered his divine service.

“Again, they’re putting obstacles in my way!” he murmured bitterly. “They’re not letting me pray as I should, as I need to! The heavens are open, and they’re waiting for my prayers, not for my prayers alone, but for the prayers of every Jew, any Jew!”

I put my hand on his pulse to feel with my fingers the flow of holy life.

“To pray,” the rebbe cried, “is my world!” I’ve lived my whole life with physical suffering. I’ve never enjoyed even one moment of peace and quiet. But prayer caused everything to be forgotten, prayer poured new life into me, it lifted me up to the heavens and caused me to sprout wings!”

My fingers were still resting on his pulse. I feel the beats getting stronger. It seems as if wings are struggling and flapping under my fingers.

“To pray!” the tzaddik sighed with longing -“what a joy it is to pray! To bless with an overflowing heart with burning fervor the One and Only One! To pray! To experience that sweet, wonderful, and exalted taste, that pleasure garden of holy words, to count them like a string of pearls, like a treasure chest of diamonds, like precious stones. To utter each one with special care, to bask in its radiance, to ensure that it isn’t lost, to sing with a fervor that gets stronger and stronger. What supernal pleasure it is, what joy! What can compare to this - to praying?”

The tzaddik’s face glowed from an excess of joy and fervor, his bent body straightened up as it were, grew erect. I’m holding his hand, grasping it strongly as if to fly with him when his arms transform into powerful wings and lift him up into the upper realms.

“Do you know what prayer is?” he cried. “It’s flying - longings with wings, the soul getting close to the heavens, and elevating to come near to its Creator! All the worlds tremble before this powerful yearning-- the sun, the moon, the stars in the sky all yearn to fly and to elevate with great speed, shooting heavenward to the highest heights. The surging waves of the sea, the strong gusts of wind, the tongues of fire, the ravishing scents of flowers - all yearn to rise, to elevate above, all crave to get close to their Creator.

“Only the human being - the creature made to get close to the Creator, to elevate - only he crouches as if paralyzed, crude and lumpish, frozen without movement, as if chained to the earth.

“But the truth is that humans too can fly, they have only to learn from the birds. Have you ever seen how a bird prepares to take off? First, it shakes itself and flaps its wings, shaking off the earth's heaviness before flight; only after it gathers in the wind can it take off, and fly and soar on the air!”
“I don’t understand, Rebbe!” I shouted in despair. “Teach me too, teach me to fly!”
“Come with me to the synagogue, my son, and watch the Chasidim pray. See how they forget this world and everything in it, how they shake off their earthliness, how they begin to sway, to clap their hands - like a bird that wants to take off, flapping its wings - they shake themselves off, the mud that clings to them begins to drop off, to fall away, their wings gather air, their fervor increases - and suddenly they break contact with the earth, soaring closer to their Creator. Come, my son, to the synagogue, and you too will learn to fly, you too are able!”

Wealth of Happiness

The hill of sand was nearly desolate. From time to time, the rattling of passing wagon wheels broke the silence.
The sun beat down mercilessly, and between one wagon and the next there was hardly a sound except for the chirping of birds and the muffled noise of metal hitting sand. A wagon stood in the heat, harnessed to an aging horse whose head was deep in its feedbag, jaws moving methodically and without pause.
Near the wagon stood a figure in a wide-brimmed hat to protect his face from the sun. The man was dressed in a dark and dingy shirt that had seen better days, stained now with dirt, and a pair of threadbare trousers held at the hips by means of a rope made of woven straw.
The man’s face was creased with lines, thanks to hard work more than to his age. Were someone to ask his name, he would have answered with a shrug. “What’s the point of asking my name? Who am I, and what is my life? I am a digger of clay. Yaakov Dovid is my name ― the simplest of the simple. I have no title and no elaboration... Just a poor Jew who works to support his family by digging clay.”
Yaakov Dovid lifted his spade in a regular motion. With each strike in the dirt, he removed small clods of earth and emptied the shovel into his wagon. Every few days, when the wagon was filled with reddish-brown clay, he would travel to town and sell his wares to builders, in exchange for a few coins.
Such was the dirt-digger’s life for many years, and so it might have continued to the end of his days, had Heaven not decreed a different future for Yaakov Dovid.
One day, Yaakov Dovid was working hard as usual. He struck the dirt with his shovel when, suddenly, he heard a strange knocking sound. The metal spade had hit a rock. Yaakov Dovid had a great deal of experience with the kinds of rocks that came into contact with his shovel when he dug. He would merely set them aside and go on with his work. But this sound was different. He stopped for a moment to investigate.
In the dirt gleamed tiny, glistening lights. The sun's rays were breaking up on a large, glasslike lump that had been lying beneath the layers of clay. It was unclear whether the mass was nature's handiwork or that of man. Yaakov Dovid’s eyes widened. Placing his shovel at his feet, his fingers began to scrabble in the dirt until he had freed the chunk of something lying underneath.
His breath caught. It was a gigantic diamond, of a kind scarcely ever seen, not only by simple diggers, but even by much more prosperous folk.
Trembling, he glanced around on all sides to make sure no thief was lurking in the vicinity, ready to pounce on his find. His torn pockets were no place to keep this treasure. He thought for a moment, and found the solution. He hid the diamond beneath his seat in the wagon. No one would check there.
As the day wore on, he continued working with a singing heart. A festive feeling enveloped him. In his mind's eye he saw himself sitting in a luxurious armchair in an ornate palace, enjoying beauty and splendor and never again having to perform such backbreaking labor as digging for clay...
The following morning, he hastened to the jewelry store. Approaching the shopkeeper, he whispered that he had something to show him. The shopkeeper took him into a corner. There Yaakov Dovid unwrapped the diamond and showed it to him.
At the sight of the gigantic precious stone, the shopkeeper gaped as though thunderstruck. Unbelievingly, he felt it on all sides, throwing periodic glances at Yaakov Dovid all the while. “Where did you get this diamond?” he asked in amazement.
“I found it in the dirt,” Yaakov Dovid confessed. “How much is it worth?”
The shopkeeper could scarcely find the words. “Listen to me, and I’ll tell you what to do,” he said excitedly. “There is no one in this country that has the money to pay what this diamond is worth.”
“Impossible.” Yaakov Dovid thought the man was trying to get him to sell the stone cheap.
“Why argue with me?” the shopkeeper flared. “Are you the expert, or am I? A diamond the size of a chicken’s egg ― there is no one in this country who can pay for such a thing. Take it across the sea, to London, England. There, you'll doubtless find a buyer. If no ordinary merchant will buy it, perhaps the royal house will. In any case, don’t delay for even a moment. Leave at once. You are about to become an extraordinarily wealthy man!”
Yaakov Dovid returned home. Naturally, he did not go back to his job. He and his wife put their heads together to formulate a plan. For the sake of this exalted goal, she was willing to forgo certain comforts for the moment. They sold some of their belongings to pay for his passage to the port of Odessa, where he would purchase a ticket on a London-bound ship...
Like a chick newly emerged from its shell, Yaakov Dovid stood blinking at the sights and sounds of the harbor. Tens of ships, large and small, were docked there. Porters and stevedores raced to and fro. Some were loading cargo into the holds of ships about to set sail, while others unloaded boxes and bundles from ships that had recently docked. Men, women, and children stood in long lines near the ships, suitcases in hand. They are getting ready to sail away from here, he murmured to himself. With pounding heart, he approached one of the people standing in line. “Where is this ship going?”
“To London,” the man replied. “Do you want to sail on it?”
“Yes. How much does a ticket cost?”
The answer took his breath away. If he were to sell his meager home, he might just have enough money to buy passage fare to London!
Downcast, he walked around the bustling harbor. He stared sadly at the steadily dwindling line of passengers. Soon the ship would be full and it would set sail for London. Without him.
Suddenly, a resolution formed in his heart. He joined the group of passengers and climbed aboard. A stern-faced officer in a crisp uniform stopped him. “Ticket, please.”
“I’m not traveling - I only want to talk to the captain.”
“The captain?” The officer’s brow creased. He had never been confronted with such an odd request.
After much coaxing, he acquiesced to the Jew's request. A sailor was enlisted to bring him to the captain's cabin on the upper deck.
Yaakov Dovid mustered every ounce of his courage as the door opened and he was ushered into the presence of the ship's captain. To his good fortune, his sensible wife had forced him to buy a new suit, as befit his future standing as a wealthy man.
The captain lifted his head from the large map spread before him on the broad table. “What’s the problem, sir?” he asked impatiently. “Didn’t they give you a nice enough cabin? Go see the first officer, not me.”
“No, no,” Yaakov Dovid said hastily. “I have something to say to you, Captain. I am a diamond merchant and must get to London to sell this special stone.” He took the huge diamond out of his pocket.
The captain was stunned. The diamond glowed and glistened with a thousand shades of light, like a tiny sun. For a long moment, the captain stood mesmerized before it. “I’ve seen a lot of things in my life - a lot of diamonds and jewels - but I've never seen one that comes close to this for beauty and size,” he said excitedly. “Well, what can I do for you?” His manner and tone had changed completely. He spoke gently, courteously.
Yaakov Dovid succeeded in convincing the captain that, due to a series of unforeseen errors and lack of time, he had arrived at the port without a ticket in hand and, even worse, without a penny in his pocket. He assured the captain that, the moment he sold his diamond in London, he would return to the captain with the full fare.
“Certainly,” the captain agreed. He summoned the first officer to his cabin and ordered him to give the “Jewish diamond merchant” the best cabin on the ship.
Yaakov Dovid felt like a man in a dream as a pair of uniformed sailors made themselves available to fulfill his every request, day and night. His suitcase was immediately unpacked for him and its contents arranged in the cupboards. He allowed the sailors to put everything away, except for the one thing that he permitted no one but the captain to see: his precious diamond... He was afraid to leave his diamond behind for even a moment, lest thieves get their hands on it. He did not wish to take it with him on deck, as his hands were constantly going to his pocket to feel for it and would end by rousing suspicions.
So Yaakov Dovid sat in his cabin, enjoying his precious stone. He would take it out of his pocket, touch it gently, and thank his Creator for bringing him such a fortune. When he returned from London a wealthy man, he would give a great deal of charity, keeping in mind all the poor folks and remembering how, just yesterday, he had been one of them.
The sailors brought his meals to his room, setting the tray down and leaving at once. He would wash his hands for the meal and then, to whet his appetite, would take out the diamond and place it before him on the table. The sight of that sparkling stone would fill him with joy, making the food go down more easily.
At noon each day, he received a visit from the captain. Apparently, rich men merit special treatment wherever they may be. The captain found Yaakov Dovid to be an intelligent and pleasant fellow, and he enjoyed chatting with him. If he only knew who I am and what kind of work I do, Yaakov Dovid would think with a smile. Once, the captain asked him why his hands were so hard and calloused, and Yaakov Dovid confessed openly that, before he'd become wealthy, he had been a simple laborer. He was a little apprehensive over the captain’s reaction but, on the contrary, the captain was deeply moved by this information and afterward treated him with even greater respect.
One night, the sea was rocky under a stormy sky. Yaakov Dovid found it hard to sleep, and was filled with fear of the ship's sinking into the depths along with his diamond. He hardly closed his eyes all night, and when his breakfast was brought to him in the morning he was drowsy and slightly confused. He washed his hands and ate a little; then, out of habit, took the precious stone from his pocket and placed it on the white tablecloth, next to the loaf of bread. During the meal, he nearly fell asleep. With difficulty, he managed to rouse himself long enough to stumble to his bed. He threw himself onto it like a sack of bricks and sank into a leaden sleep.
While he slept, the attending sailor came into his cabin as usual. Without paying any particular attention, he picked up the tablecloth along with all its contents, carried it over to the round porthole, thrust his hands out, and - as he did every day - shook the cloth out over the waves. The loaf of bread, still nearly whole, hid the shining stone on its way to the depths.
Yaakov Dovid slept a long time. He awoke at last in an addled state, with no memory of where he was or what he was doing in the small cabin. Why wasn't he standing in his clay pit, striking the earth with his shovel?
Suddenly, he remembered. He was on his way to London, to sell the precious diamond that he'd found in the clay. With a single leap, he lunged for the table.
A heartrending cry echoed through the cabin. The table was completely bare, the tablecloth empty. Everything that had been on it was gone.
At the sound of his terrible cries, the sailor raced into the cabin. Yaakov Dovid whirled on him. “Where is the food? Where is everything that was on the table?”
The sailor explained that he’d done what he did every day: shaken the tablecloth out the porthole.
The diamond had sunk in the waters of the sea!
Goodbye, unimaginable riches. He had always been a luckless fellow, and a luckless fellow he would remain.
The sailor left without comprehending what had happened. Yaakov Dovid fell on his bed, covered his face with his pillow, and wept bitter tears. He had left his city a pauper and he would return the same way. And how was he to return? Where would he get the money to sail from London back to Odessa? And how would he pay for the overland portion of his journey?
All at once, he recovered. If he cried openly and revealed his secret to the captain, he would be hurled overboard without pity. There was one law for the rich, and quite another for the poor. He would not have to say a word; one look at his anguished face, and the captain would know all.
He had one asset, and that was joy. If he behaved as happily as usual and acted normally, the captain would notice nothing of his tragedy and Yaakov Dovid would at least make it to London.
That same day, he behaved with an extra measure of cheerfulness when the captain came to visit him. Enjoying his company, the captain lingered. Suddenly, he leaned closer and said, “I like you a lot. Let me tell you something. I’m not just a sea captain; I am also a big grain merchant. The entire hold of this ship is filled with fine wheat. All together, it’s worth a fortune ― several times more than the value of that diamond of yours. I need to sell it in London, but I can't spare the time. How about being my agent and selling the wheat for me, in return for a nice percentage?”
The sum that Yaakov Dovid realized from the sale of the wheat in London was 10 times the value of the diamond he had lost. He became a rich man overnight. On his return to the ship to give the captain the money, he found all the sailors weeping.
“Our captain died suddenly of a heart attack!”
With the captain’s death, and having not left any heirs, Yaakov Dovid inherited all the profits from the wheat, and returned home a very wealthy man.
“The diamond was not his,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov would say when telling this story. “And the proof: He lost it. The captain’s wealth did belong to him, as you can see by the fact that he kept it. How was it that a simple clay-digger achieved this state? Only because he stood firm and did not lose his joy!”
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5770
Is sponsored liRefuah Shleima
Refoel Chaim Simcha ben Devorah Aliza bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half an hour before Mincha.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770

שבת טעם החיים נח תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770

Noach Reveals Too Much
In this week’s parsha the Torah records how Noach built a Teiva, an ark, that protected his family, himself, and numerous animals from the Great Flood that HaShem brought upon the world. Subsequent to the flood, Noach left the Teivah and it is said (Bereishis 9:20-21) vayachel Noach ish haadama vayita karem vayeisht min hayayin vayishkar vayisgal bisoch ahalo, Noach, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that Noach made himself chullin, profane, as he should have chosen a different planting instead of grapes. One must ask the obvious question. While it is true that grapes can lead to one get intoxicated, what is wrong with the actual act of planting grapes? Furthermore, if planting grapes was inappropriate, then why did Noach act in such a manner?
Noach was supposed to act discreetly
Much has been written regarding the contrast of Noach’s conduct prior to entering the Teivah and his behavior subsequent to exiting the Teivah. Perhaps we can suggest a new approach that will help us gain a perspective of how we are supposed to conduct ourselves. Prior to Noach entering the Teivah, it is said (Bereishis 7:16) vayisgor HaShem baado, and HaShem shut it on his behalf. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid) writes that this passage alludes to the fact that HaShem prohibited Noach and his family from cohabiting while on the Teivah. While in the Teivah, Noach certainly followed this instruction to be constrained. Yet, when Noach exited the Teivah, the Torah states explicitly that he revealed himself, and this was the antithesis of his conduct while inside the Teivah.
One who witnesses depravity should abstain from wine
The Pinei Menachem adds a fascinating insight into what was expected of Noach. The Pinei Menachem adds a fascinating insight into what was expected from Noach. Prior to the flood, the people had been engaged in promiscuous behavior. The Gemara states that one who witnesses a Sota (adulteress woman) in her state of shame should abstain from wine. Similarly, after witnessing firsthand the depravity of his generation, Noach should have abstained from wine. Instead, Noach became intoxicated and was shamed by his youngest son, Cham. In our own lives, we are often witness to acts of depravity, but we choose to ignore them and carry on with what we are doing. The Torah is teaching us that being witness to such acts should lead us to sanctify our actions and search for loftier goals and pursuits.
The Shabbos connection
Every week HaShem affords us with the opportunity to transcend the decadence of society and enter into the holy realm of Shabbos. It is noteworthy that in addition to the evening prayers that we recite with the onset of Shabbos, the first act that we perform is the recital of Kiddush on wine. Wine can be detrimental effect when used inappropriately. Nonetheless, one can sanctify his actions by reciting Kiddush on Shabbos and demonstrating that everything belongs to HaShem. This thought should remain with us throughout the week, and then we will merit rectifying the world and meriting the arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
To be outdone by a dog
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: A student of the holy Chafetz Chaim zt”l once heard him chastising himself: “Yisroel Meir, do you not appreciate the kindness that HaShem has done with you that he gave you the wisdom and understanding to compile an entire sefer on the laws of lashon hara (slanderous speech)?! Aren’t you thankful that by the grace of HaShem many thousands of people have purchased the sefer, and learn from it daily?! Don't you realize that if you don't show appreciation for these gifts, then the lowly dog is greater than you?!”
The next morning, the student, puzzled by his rebbe’s cryptic statement, had the boldness to ask its meaning. The Chafetz Chaim explained: “The Medrash says HaShem gave Kayin a dog. Why a dog? There is no animal on earth quite like the dog - that shows such love, appreciation, and devotion to its owner in exchange for little more than a few scraps and morsels that would likely have gone in the garbage (the Chafetz Chaim lived before the times that dog foods received more supermarket shelf- space than baby foods). No animal is more faithful and grateful to its owner than a dog. And no act could be more the contrary than Kayin's taking advantage of Hevel's kindness, and using it to kill him. By giving him a dog, HaShem was giving Kayin a constant reminder of his lack of hakaras hatov (recognition of kindness). That’s why I told myself that if I fail to appreciate the gifts HaShem has given me, I'll be outdone by a dog!”
One can always rebuild
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: A renowned Rosh Yeshiva tragically lost his son to a debilitating disease at the prime of his life. Not long married, the son left a widow and a young child. The Rosh Yeshiva and his Rebbitzen were devastated at the loss and the shiva period was a most difficult time.
One of the hundreds of visitors was the Bluzhever Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Spira, whose entire family was wiped out during the Holocaust. He sat quietly, taking in the pain of the bereaved family. Finally, when it was time to say something, Rabbi Spira turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and spoke. “Your loss is terrible, but at least your son will have a living remnant, his child. He will also have a resting place and stone where the family can visit. I do not even know where any of my children who were killed by the Nazis are buried.” Then he added, “Yet, somehow HaShem has given me the strength to rebuild my family and life.” Those words truly helped console the Rosh Yeshiva.

True belief
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehilas Zichron Mordechai, tells the following story.
In a small town there was a severe drought. The community synagogues each prayed separately for rain, but to no avail. The tears and prayers failed to unlock the sealed heavens, and for months, no rains came.
Finally, the town’s eldest sage held a meeting with prominent community rabbis and lay leaders. "There are two items lacking in our approach, faith and unity. Each one of you must impress upon his congregation the need to believe. If we are united and sincere, our prayers will be answered!” He declared that all the synagogues in the city would join together for a day of Tefillah. Everyone, men women and children would join together for this event. “I assure you,” he exclaimed, “that if we meet both criteria - faith and unity - no one will leave that prayer service without getting drenched!”
There was no shul large enough to contain the entire community so the date was set to gather and daven in a field! For the next few weeks all the rabbis spoke about bitachon and achdus (faith and unity). On the designated day the entire town gathered in a large field whose crops had long withered from the severe drought. Men, women, and children all gathered and anxiously awaited the old sage to begin the service.
The elderly rabbi walked up to the podium. His eyes scanned the tremendous crowd that filled the large field and then they dimmed in dismay. The rabbi began shaking his head in dissatisfaction. “This will never work,” he moaned dejectedly. "The rain will not come.” Slowly he left the podium. The other rabbis on the dais were shocked. “But rebbe, everyone is here and they are all united! Surely they must believe that the rains will fall! Otherwise no one would have bothered to come on a working day!”
The rabbi shook his head slowly and sadly.
“No. They don’t really believe,” he stated. “I scanned the entire crowd. Nobody even brought a raincoat.” [Reprinted with permission from]
Dream while you are awake
Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Kehilas Zichron Mordechai, told over the following story. Rabbi Shimshon Zelig Fortman was the Rav of Congregation Knesseth Israel in Far Rockaway during the 1940s. During that period, many naysayers had all but discounted any chance of a rebirth of Orthodox Jewry. Torah observant Yidden had hardly a voice in Washington, they were disorganized and fragmented, and the destruction of European Jewry was almost the last nail in the alleged coffin of traditional Torah Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Fortman had a young son-in-law, Moshe, who had studied in Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore. He would tell his father-in-law how he saw a future for Orthodox Jewry that was filled with honor and power, with representatives that would have direct access to Congress, the Senate, and even the President of the United States. They would influence legislation with their values and fill stadiums and coliseums with Torah assemblies and prayer gatherings! Rabbi Fortman was very concerned about his young son-in-law’s ivory towered dreams. He felt that he these dreams distracted him and he would never accomplish anything. Rabbi Yosef Kahanamen, the Ponovezher Rav had recently come to America to raise funds for his Yeshiva in Israel, and was staying by Rabbi Fortman in Far Rockaway. “Surely,” Rabbi Fortman thought, “Rabbi Kahanamen will end Moshe's fantasies and teach him about the realities of accomplishment.” Moshe and Rabbi Kahanamen met for nearly an hour. The Rav listened intently and then told young Moshe, “Dream my son. Continue to dream. In fact you can continue to dream as long as you live. But remember one thing. Never fall asleep.” Young Moshe was eventually known to hundreds of thousands of Jews world over as the man who may have been one of the most influential personalities in the emergence of Torah Jewry today. This man was Rabbi Moshe Sherer, the President of Agudath Israel of America.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half 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
and other Divrei Torah on

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bereishis 5770

שבת טעם החיים בראשית תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bereishis 5770

It must have been something
This week’s parsha discusses the creation of the world, and most important, the creation of man. The Torah describes the birth of Adam and Chava’s two sons, Kayin and Hevel, and the ensuing battle between them. Their struggle still reverberates amongst their descendants today. People are forever staking out their territory and determining their dominance over their fellow man.
The rejection of Kayin’s sacrifice
The incident began rather innocuously, when Kayin offered a sacrifice to HaShem, albeit an inferior offering, from the flax that he had cultivated. Hevel, however, offered a choice sacrifice, from the first born and the choicest of his sheep. HaShem rejected Kayin’s sacrifice but accepted Hevel’s offering. Kayin was angry that HaShem found favor in Hevel’s offering, and remained angry despite HaShem’s explanation. The narrative abruptly turns to a scene which takes place in the field where Kayin rises and kills Hevel. What happened between the time that the two brothers brought their sacrifices and the ensuing murder?
Various opinions for why Kayin killed Hevel
The Midrash offers numerous points of view as to what occurred between Kayin and Hevel. One opinion offered by the Midrash is that Kayin and Hevel struggled over land ownership. A second opinion maintains that the two brothers were quarreling over who would have the Bais HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, built in their territory. A third opinion posits that Kayin and Hevel disputed the right to marry Chava, Adam’s first wife. This presupposes that Adam had subsequently married a second woman named Chava. The fourth and final opinion cited in the Midrash is that the first Chava had already died and Kayin and Hevel were arguing over who would marry the extra sister that was born to Hevel. What is troubling about the Midrash, however, is that all the opinions appear to ignore the original cause for contention. Kayin was upset because HaShem had rejected his offering and preferred his younger brother’s offering over his. Would this not have been sufficient reason for Kayin to kill Hevel?
Our dispute must certainly be valid
A rabbi once related that when he was first hired by a synagogue, he ambitiously took on the issue that seemed to be the most troubling issue in the community at the time. For many years, two of the wealthiest members of the community were not speaking with one another. Unexpectedly, the rabbi summoned the two adversaries to his office with the intent of getting to the root of their dissention. The rabbi questioned each of them as to what they thought the catalyst had been that led to the long-standing feud. To the rabbi’s surprise, neither man was able to recall the exact point in time when the feud began. However, they both insisted that “such a fight only could have occurred if there had been good reason for it.”
Sadly, people often have fallouts in their relationships because of “something that happened long ago,” but have a hard time explaining why it had such terrible repercussions. While the Torah omitted the actual dispute that occurred between Kayin and Hevel, the rabbis in the Midrash debated the nature of the quarrelling brothers’ discussion. It would seem that the Biblical omission and the sage’s elaboration demonstrate the idea that one can easily become embroiled in a dispute over trivialities. Clearly, something occurred between the brothers that instigated the tension. Nonetheless, they allowed the dispute to escalate to the point where the origin of the debate was irrelevant..
This incident is a lesson in how to maintain harmonious relationships with friends and relatives. While differences and disputes are sometimes inevitable, it is essential to recognize that what unites us is more important than what divides us.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week we are engaged in competitive and aggressive pursuits that at times can lead us to harbor feelings of animosity and ill-will towards others. Although we constantly seek peace and tranquility, it is only through the light of Shabbos that we can truly experience the serenity that we are seeking. Through the ideal peace that is reflected in the Holy Shabbos, HaShem should allow us to merit finding favor in His eyes and in the eyes of all of mankind.

Shabbos Stories
You should live long
The Torah Temima, zt”l, told the story of a certain elderly man named Reb Binyomin whom he had once met as a child. This Reb Binyomin was of exceedingly old age, and it was well known that he was not particularly cautious about getting chilled or overheated. In other words, he didn’t take the normal precautions that even younger people do to safeguard their health, much less the great care that is normally taken by the elderly. His acquaintances once tried to encourage him to take better care of himself, but to no avail.

Reb Binyomin responded, “Unlike other people, I am not concerned about such matters. People, for good reason, worry that they might get overheated or catch cold and die, but I am confident that the blessing that I was fortunate enough to receive from the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, will ensure me of a very, very long life.

“I was a little boy when the Gaon was still alive, and I used to go to pray in his Beis Medrash. One time, after the prayers, the Gaon paced the floor of the Beis Medrash sunk deeply in his thoughts. On that day, I too was pacing the floor deeply immersed in reciting Tehillim, and without realizing it, the Gaon and I ran right into one another. “I was completely dumbfounded that I had knocked into the holy Gaon, and stood there paralyzed in shock. Little did I realize that the Gaon could not move away from me either - because I was standing on his tzitzis! Eventually, the Gaon saw how confused and terrified I was and he had pity on me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said lovingly, ‘You should live long, my son, but please…let my tzitzis go.’

“When the matter became known in the Beis Medrash and later in the city, people looked at me as if I was a rare find—a child that had been graced by the attentions and the blessing of the great tzaddik. My parents even made a great celebration that day and distributed charity to the poor!”

Not now and not in the future

While he was the head of the Bais din in Dreznitz (1794-1799), the Chasam Sofer was once passing through Pressburg on his way to Mattersdorf. He stopped in Pressburg to visit with Rabbi Meshulam Igra Tismenitz, who was the chief rabbi in Pressburg. As he approached the city, the Chasam Sofer was in doubt whether he should pronounce the bracha of shechalak michachmaso liyiraiav, blessed is the One Who bestowed from His wisdom on those who fear Him, upon seeing the venerable sage, who was undoubtedly one of the leading Torah luminaries of the generation. The nature of the doubt was that this Halacha of pronouncing this bracha is not cited by Rambam in his Yad Hachazaka. Some claim that the reason for this omission is that we no longer find men of the stature to which the Gemara refers to. On the other hand, the great Rabbi Meshulam Igra was an outstanding Torah sage, and perhaps the bracha was appropriate. As he approached the home of R’ Meshulam, Chasam Sofer decided that he would recite the passage of the Gemara verbatim. “Upon seeing a great sage in Israel, one should say, ‘Blessed are You, HaShem…’,” using HaShem’s name, and as he opened the door he finished off the
blessing, “ ‘Who has conferred His knowledge upon them’ .” Then, to settle the
mind of R’ Meshulam, who most certainly
would be wondering about this pronouncement, Chasam Sofer immediately
asked him why Rambam does not rule according to this Gemara. R’ Meshulam explained that Rambam includes in his Yad Hachazaka not only halachos that are practical in our days, but he even brings laws which will once again be practical when Moshiach arrives. This is why Rambam includes laws of Korbanos, etc. However, laws that do not apply now, and will not apply when Moshiach arrives are not included. When Moshiach arrives, we will merit techias hameisim, the resurrection of the dead, when our patriarchs will be with us, together with Moshe and Aharon. The Tannaim and Amoraim, who codified and edited the Mishnah and Gemara, will live in our communities. Rambam omits the bracha said upon seeing a great sage because in our days, we have no men of this stature, and in the days to come there will be so many of them, it will not be practical to say the blessing every day. Therefore, the halacha does not apply now, and it will not apply later, either. This is why this halacha, while it is correct, no longer has any application. [Reprinted with permission from]

No falsehood here
Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was known for his love and good will toward his fellow Jews always trying to assess the good in people rather than expose the bad.
Once on the Fast of Tisha BaAv he saw a Jew eating in a non-kosher restaurant. He tapped lightly on the window of the establishment and summoned the man outside.
“Perhaps you forgot that today is a fast day?” Rav Levi Yitzchak queried.
“No, Rebbe,” the man replied.
“Then perhaps you did not realize that this restaurant in not kosher.”
“No, Rebbe, I know it is a treife (non-kosher) eatery.”
Rav Levi Yitzchak softly placed his hands on the man’s shoulders and looked heavenward. “Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe,” he exclaimed. “Look at how wonderful your children are. They may be eating on a fast day. In a non-kosher restaurant to boot. Yet they refuse to emit a falsehood from their lips!” [Reprinted with permission from]
In the merit of Tzedakah
This story of how Rav Yosef Sharshover zt”l, a son of Rav Chaim of Volozhin, was spared from murder at the hands of a band of thieves, was related by one of the talmidim of the Volozhin yeshiva:
“While I was in the Volozhin yeshiva, I heard a story from the godol hador, which took place in the year following the death of the great gaon Rav Chaim zt”l, of Volozhin. Besides his son the gaon Rav Yitzchak zt”l, Rav Chaim had a son named Rav Yosef, who lived in the town of Sharshov, in the Horodno province. (See the introduction to Nefesh HaChaim, where Rav Itzele quotes a chiddush in his brother’s name.)
“When the gaon Rav Chaim died, his son Rav Yosef came to divide his possessions, from which he received one thousand silver rubles and some seforim and other items. When he had to return home, he hired a wagon driver from Volozhin to take him. While they were travelling, the driver lost his way and they were soon wandering away from the main route.
“Friday afternoon arrived and the two travelers wondered where they might spend the approaching Shabbos. They saw a man coming towards them and asked him if he knew where there might be a Jew living in the vicinity, with whom they could stay. The man replied, “I will go and show you where a Jew lives.” Off the three of them went, until they arrived at a Jewish home. Rav Yosef asked the Jew whether he and the wagon driver could stay there over Shabbos, to which the householder responded, ‘Why not?! Aren’t we all Jews?’ So they stayed.
“The following afternoon, Rav Yosef prayed minchah, ate the third meal and lay down on his bed to rest, for it was the summer. His father Rav Chaim came to him in a dream and told him, ‘My dear son, you are in great danger, for there are people who want to kill you and take your money. If you can run away, do so.’ When Rav Yosef saw his father in the dream, he awoke and arose from the bed. He waited a little, until it was almost nightfall and he told the driver, ‘Go quickly and harness the wagon and we’ll leave this place because it’s dangerous. There are murderers here who intend to kill us.'”
“When the driver went to harness the wagon, an armed thief came over to him and told him, ‘Come with me to the room, because you’re not going anywhere. You will die here,’ and he closed the wagon driver inside with him. Rav Yosef was sitting in his room and he saw that three armed men had come in. He realized what was happening - they had come to kill him.
He went to stand in the corner of the room and started to say vidui. As he prayed he said, ‘My father, my father, Rav Chaim zt”l, I ask you, may your merit and the merit of the Torah protect me, for I have fallen into the hands of murderers who want to kill me.' So he called, bitterly and broken-heartedly, and he wept profusely.
“When the house owner approached the room and heard him calling, ‘My father, Rav Chaim!!’ he said to him, ‘Whose son are you? Tell me!’
“He replied, ‘I am the son of the gaon Rav Chaim zt”l, from Yeshivas Volozhin!’
The murderer said, ‘Who says you are telling the truth. Maybe you’re lying?’
“Rav Yosef replied, ‘Come over here and I’ll show you proof aplenty, for it’s been four weeks since my father zt”l, died.’ The man came inside and Rav Yosef showed him his father’s manuscripts, seforim and other objects, until he saw that he was telling the truth and that he really was Rav Chaim’s son.
“Then the murderer began calling everyone and he told them, ‘Sit around the table for a trial. We’ll judge whether we can kill him or not.’ They did as they were told and sat down straight away and he told them the story of what had happened to him.
“ ‘When I killed an entire family, nine people in all, in the Minsk region, I was imprisoned in Minsk. When I was being taken to Vilna to be interrogated by the investigator, I happened to be in the Volozhin jail on erev Pesach. When Rav Chaim zt”l, heard that a Jew was in the prison he went to the governor and asked that the imprisoned Jew be permitted to come to him for the two sedorim.
“ ‘The superintendent suddenly came to me and said, “Get up, with the chain” - that was attached to my feet and hands – “for the local rabbi wants you to be with him for two nights.”
“ ‘When I came to his house, he had the appearance of a heavenly angel and the members of the yeshiva were sitting around the table for the seder which was laid out, while I was tied with iron chains like a thief. The gaon said to me, “Sit down for the seder,” and I sat down in mortal fear. This actually happened to me!
“ ‘Can we, my sons and brothers, a man like this, who was not ashamed to sit at the same table with me, can we kill his son? Where is our fairness? Where is our justice? I put this to you, and you give a fair verdict!’
“Their chief spoke out and said, ‘According to our laws and our own sense of fair play, we cannot do anything!’
“When they heard this verdict from their leader -- that he would not be sentenced to death -- the man took Rav Yosef, with his money and the wagon driver and blindfolded them so that they shouldn’t see which way the road was and he put them onto the main route. This is what I heard.”

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bereishis 5770
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, October 7, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770

שבת טעם החיים
שמיני עצרת-שמחת תורה-וזאת הברכה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770

Sukkos and the World to Come
Sukkos is coming to an end, but just as we bid farewell to the Sukkah, we welcome in the festival known as Shemini Atzeres. What is the significance of Shemini Atzeres and who does this special day connect to Sukkos? The Gemara (Sukkah 55b; see Rashi Bamidbar 29:35 and 36) states that Shemini Atzeres is akin to a king whose servants make the king festive meals for seven days. When the festivities come to an end, the king requests from his friend to him to stay as his departure is too much to bear. The king then requests that the man should make a small feast so that the king can benefit from him. Let us understand the message contained in this Gemara. The Gemara is stating that following the seven days of Sukkos, we wish to depart and HaShem begs us to stay. Thus, HaShem gave us the day of Shemini Atzeres so that we could spend more time with Him, so to speak. How do we understand the concept that HaShem desires that we stay with Him an extra day? Why did HaShem not instruct us to celebrate the festival of Sukkos for eight days and then there would not have been a need to remain another day?
Shemini Atzeres stands on its own
It is told that the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l was experiencing pain in his feet on Sukkos. Yet, to the surprise of his followers, when Simchas Torah arrived, the Rebbe was dancing energetically. A Chasid queried the Rebbe as to this transformation, and the Rebbe replied, “Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah) regel bifnei atzmo, Shemini Atzeres is a festival of its own. The Rebbe was making a play on the word regel, which literarily means foot. This incident sheds light on what is occurring on Shemini Atzeres. Sukkos is a time of joy, but after seven days of basking in HaShem’s Presence, we are eager to get back to the regular way of living. HaShem therefore requests of us that we do not depart so hastily and we spend another day with Him.
The last day of Sukkos and Shavuos are referred to as Atzeres
It is fascinating to note that the last day of Sukkos is referred to as Shemini Atzeres and the festival of Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres. What is the association between these two seemingly unrelated holidays? It is said (Devarim 33:3) af choveiv amim kol kedoshav biyadecha viheim tuku liraglecha yisa midabrosecha, indeed, You loved the tribes greatly, all its holy ones were in Your hands; for they planted themselves at Your feet, bearing [the yoke] of Your utterances. Regarding the words viheim tuku liraglecha, Rashi writes: they are pushing and gathering under Your shade. The Targum renders the translation of these words to be: and they are guided under your clouds. These explanations clearly allude to the idea that HaShem led the Jewish people in the Wilderness under the protection of the Clouds of Glory. It is precisely this miracle that we commemorate by sitting in the Sukkah for seven days. [It is noteworthy that the words viheim tuku liraglecha equal in gematria the word Atzeres (760, as Shemini Atzeres is a regel by itself]. Subsequent to receiving the Torah, it is said (Bamidbar 10:33) vayisu meihar HaShem derech sheloshes yamim, they journeyed from the Mountain of HaShem a three-day journey. Tosfos (Shabbos 16a s.v. puranus) quotes the Medrash that states that this verse teaches us that the Jewish People ran away from HaShem like a child running away from school. This, then, is the clear association between Shavuos and Shemini Atzeres. We can suggest that Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres because Atzeres means restrain. The message of Shavuos is that it is not sufficient to just receive the Torah. A Jew must remain connected to the Torah and not seek to flee from the acceptance of Torah and mitzvos. Similarly, following the seven days of Sukkos, we need to restrain ourselves from fleeing, so to speak, from HaShem’s Presence. It is for this reason that HaShem supplicates the Jewish People to remain one more day in His Presence.
Shemini Atzeres is for our benefit
We can now understand why HaShem did not merely instruct us to dwell in the Sukkah for eight days. Rather, HaShem instructed us to dwell in the Sukkah for seven days. When we begin to feel like it is too much for us, HaShem requests that we stay on another day. This extra day is for our good. In this way we will be cognizant of the fact that basking in HaShem’s Present is the will of HaShem and is for our good.
The Shabbos connection
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a) states that in the future the gentiles will seek to accept the Torah and HaShem will offer them to perform the mitzvah of Sukkah. The gentiles will then build their Sukkahs and HaShem will create an intense heat. This heat will cause the gentiles to kick their Sukkahs and reject the mitzvah. The Gemara finds proof for this in a verse that states (Tehillim 2:3) ninatka es mosroseimo vinashlicha mimenu avoseimo, let us cut their cords and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves. It is noteworthy that the word mosroseimo equals in gematria the word Atzeres and 8 (768), as the gentiles will demonstrate that they cannot tolerate being in HaShem’s Presence for the extra day which is reflected in Shemini Atzeres. Indeed, the Sfas Emes writs that Shemini Atzeres is akin to the World to Come. Furthermore, HaShem chose us as His beloved nation, and every Shabbos HaShem affords us a glimpse of the World to Come. HaShem should allow us to merit basking in His Presence, and we should embrace this opportunity at every possible moment.
Shabbos Stories
The lost Torah Scroll
The little kids quickly formed a train, each with his hands on the shoulders of the boy in front of him. They lurched into motion, running madly around the periphery of the shul as throngs of people danced in concentric rings around the bima. Some carried Torah scrolls, adorned in silver crowns and velvet finery. Others carried their small children on their shoulders. As one song ended, another one caught on, and no one wanted to stop.
Observing the action was a girl name Rachel, one of a group of teenage girls who were guests at the home of Rabbi Benzion Klatzko. Dressed in her fashionable best, she watched the frenetic scene with glee; this was an experience unlike any she had encountered thus far in Judaism. To Rachel, the spirit of the night was an injection of life itself, a salve for her ailing soul.
All at once, Rachel's snapped into sharp focus. Their host, Rabbi Klatzko, stood up on a chair in front of the bima, clutching a miniature Torah scroll in his hands. He had a story to tell, and the men, women and children packed into the shul were eager to hear it. Rachel strained to hear every word of the tale, for she knew that it would speak to her.
“Every week, in my home, I have the privilege of hosting about 30 to 40 people for Shabbos meals. Most of them are college students who are Jewish but have never had the chance to experience a Shabbos. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of places across the country, and they join together at my home and get a taste of what Shabbos is about.
“The only thing is, many of them are uncomfortable about going to a traditional shul. They'd rather stay at my house and wait until I come home. The drawback to that is that they never have the chance to see the beauty of a real Shabbos davening. So I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy my own Torah scroll and ark for my living room. That way, I could have the davening at home, and they could take part in it and still feel comfortable. Plus, it would give many of them a chance for an aliyah, some who haven't had one since their bar mitzvah. And there are those that didn't even have a bar mitzvah and have never been called up to the Torah in their lives.
“The question was, how would I ever find a kosher Torah scroll at a decent price? And an ark would also be a big investment. So it seemed that, short of a miracle, my idea would be impossible to pull off. However, G-d doesn't just perform miracles for you. You have to do your part and hope that He will take care of the rest.
“So I opened up the papers and looked around to see if anyone had a Torah scroll for sale. And believe it or not, someone did. I immediately called the number and on the other end of the phone was an elderly man who said he had a very small Torah scroll that he was selling. It was 11 inches tall.
The Torah scroll had been sitting in his closet unused for 50 years.
“I asked him where he got it, and he told me that his father had been a rabbi of a shul in the Catskills which eventually died out. They auctioned everything off, and the Torah scroll was the only thing they kept. It had been sitting in his closet unused for 50 years, and now he felt it was time to sell that as well.
“Although he wanted quite a bit of money for it and the price was a bit steep for me, I told him that I would like to take a look at it. He agreed to come to my home to show me the Torah.
“A few days later Mr. Foreman came. He showed me a beautiful Torah scroll - over 200 years old but in perfect condition. He asked me why I needed it, and I explained about my Shabbos guests and my idea to enable them to daven at my home, where they would be comfortable.
“He stared at me for a moment, seeming much moved by the idea that this Torah would help people come closer to Judaism. All of a sudden, he started crying -- I mean really crying with tears streaming down his face. I was trying to get him to talk, but he literally couldn't get any words out. Finally, he explained. He had drifted away from Judaism and married a Buddhist woman. This Torah scroll was his only connection, and at this point, he felt so cut off that he thought he might as well sell it. But when he found out that this Torah would help reconnect people to Judaism, he wanted to give it to me as a gift. In this way, he felt he would perhaps have the merit to be reconnected too and find his way home at last.
“I didn’t know what to say, but I certainly appreciated his incredible gift. I realized that this was a Torah that had been basically homeless for the past 50 years. There was no one to read it, hold it or keep it properly, and now G-d gave the Torah a home, and would hopefully bring this lonely Jew back in the near future as well.
“Now, what about an ark? That’s a story of its own. I found an online ad for an old Jewish artifact, a Jewish chest. The sellers weren't Jewish, but they had bought it from a priest who told them it was of Jewish origin.
On top of the ark was a large cross. I almost fainted.
“When I opened the online pictures of the chest, I saw before me what seemed to be a beautifully crafted ark. It was small, so it wouldn't be able to hold a regular sized Torah, but would be perfect for the Torah we had. But when I viewed a picture of the top of the ark, I almost fainted. There was a large cross attached to it. All of a sudden, I was not at all sure that this was an item of Jewish origin.
Suddenly I noticed a small plaque at the bottom of it. I asked the sellers to send me a photo of the plaque which appeared to have Hebrew writing on it. They sent me a picture where there was a clear inscription in Hebrew that said “Behold, the guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers” (Psalms 121), which proved that the item must be Jewish. The cross upon closer examination, they said, was a separate piece that had been attached. I realized that the priest who bought this ark must have made that addition. I was deeply moved, and was certain that the hand of G-d was clearly guiding me.
“I bought the ark and had it delivered to my home. The cross was removed and I marveled at the verse that was inscribed. I have never seen this particular verse inscribed on an ark before. And I realized that there was a message here. It was as if G-d were saying that although this ark was lost for many years, He would never forget about it. He didn't rest until it finally was brought home to Jewish hands.
“My dear friends, look at what we have here. A Torah that was neglected for so many years was finally given a home in an ark that had been used by a priest. Yet the message was clear that G-d would never give up on them. He had not forgotten about this lost ark and Torah scroll, and finally the two of them were brought together and can now be used to bring young men and woman back to their Father in Heaven as well.
“This Torah has not been danced with for over 50 years, and now we have the chance to welcome it home. Let's give it the welcome it deserves.”
As if on cue, the entire shul erupted in singing and dancing. The tiny Torah scroll was in the center of it all, soaking up the overflowing love and honor it had been missing for decades. It was no longer locked away, unused and untouched on this holiday meant for rejoicing. It was where it belonged, in the center of it all
Later that night, Rabbi Klatzko brought the Torah home and secured it inside the ark in his living room. To Rachel, it was not just the sense of tranquility and warmth that Rachel relished. It was the awesome, indescribable feeling of this unique Torah scroll.
The meal ended late, and at last, the contented but exhausted group headed to their rooms for a night's sleep. Rachel, lay in bed, eyes wide open, with the sound of her heart beating in her ears. She waited a long time, perhaps an hour or more, until she was certain that no one in the house remained awake. She slipped out of bed and tip-toed into the living room. There stood the ark, as if it had been waiting for her.
There, she spoke her heart to G-d, praying that the sweetness of this home would be hers, in her own life, some day. These were the first prayers her lips had uttered for many years. The bitterness of her own family home – the constant fighting, the blame and anger, the storm clouds that threatened to blow through the front door at any moment – had acted like a razor-sharp wire-cutter, severing her connection to G-d. Here at the Klatzko’s home, she could feel the connection being mended; the power was sputtering back into her being, and once again beginning to flow.
Recalling the Torah scrolls’ exile, she thought of herself. “My dear, holy Torah scroll, you know what it's like to be neglected. You know how it feels to live with people who don't see the beauty in you and don't understand what you are worth. I've lived that way my whole life, but you've lived like that so much longer. Fifty whole years you stood there and no one kissed you or carried you or looked inside you to see what was there. But you’ve given me hope, because even after 50 years, look what happened! Look what a night you just had! Everyone hugged you and kissed you. Everyone wanted to dance with you. You were the star of the show. The Almighty doesn’t sleep. He keeps watch over His people, and He’s keeping watch over me.
“Please, G-d, I’m begging you, may I be like this Torah scroll. I know there is still holiness in me. Please let me hold onto it, just like this Torah did. And when the time is right, bring me a husband who will honor me and love me the way a wife should be honored. Let me have a home that’s happy, and holy, and full of children and guests and kindness, just like this home. Please, G-d, find me, too, and bring me home.” [Reprinted with permission from]
False Testimony

There were once three men, and their names were Reb Ezriel, Reb Anshel, and Reb Eliezer. The three were partners in a business. Reb Ezriel bought feathers and hides from Russia and Reb Anshel bought similar merchandise from Galicia. The third partner, Reb Eliezer, who was the son of the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Sholom, arranged financing for their ventures and kept the books, auditing all the expenses and income of their various transactions.

For some time, all was well. Then, for some unknown reason, Reb Ezriel and Reb Anshel asked Reb Eliezer if they could see the books.

“We would like to know where we stand,” they said. Reb Eliezer, however, refused to show them the ledgers, so the two decided to go to his father, the Belzer Rebbe, with their complaint and to see if he could adjudicate the matter.

“I cannot be a judge in this matter,” the Rebbe told the men. “I am the father of the accused and I am therefore invalid to judge.”

“Even so,” the two partners assured him, “we trust your decision even though you have an interest in the matter.”

“Very well,” said the Rebbe. “But it is late, just before Minchah and there is no time to hear all the details. For now, let me quickly tell you a story that relates to this situation.

The Rebbe began, “There were once two brothers, one rich and one poor. The rich brother had a daughter who was of marriageable age, and the poor brother had a son who was a fine Talmud Chacham of the same age. It seemed natural, therefore, that when the rich brother had rejected the many offers of marriage for his daughter, the shadchan (marriage broker) urged him to take his nephew, (the poor brother’s son) as a son-in-law. The rich brother agreed and the two were married.

The young man, Yisroel, soon found life under his father-in-law’s roof very uncomfortable. Neither his wife nor father-in-law appreciated his occupation with Torah study and would have preferred that he involve himself in business. The situation became tense, so Yisroel decided to leave and become a melamed (teacher), for the sake of peace for all involved.

Yisroel traveled far, to an isolated village and there became the melamed for the children of a chassid of the Baal Shem Tov. In time, the chassid took a trip to visit his Rebbe.

Just as he was about to depart with a group of other chassidim, Yisroel asked: “Can you kindly mention me to your Rebbe? I have a difficult personal matter that is a great burden. Perhaps the Baal Shem Tov will have some advice for me.”

Yisroel’s employer did indeed mention his name to the Baal Shem, and returned home with an urgent message. "As soon as we mentioned your name to the Rebbe, he became quite upset. He told us to advise you to immediately return to your home. The Rebbe’s words were, ‘Reb Yisroel's return involves a serious matter regarding his wife.’' We didn’t even know you were married?”

“It is a painful story so I did not share it with you,” he answered.

Yisroel was skeptical. He questioned the Chassidim, “How would the Rebbe know of me? How does he even know I’m married?” “Never mind,” they insisted. “If the Baal Shem Tov was so adamant about your returning home, you must do as he says. He told us that he looked at the root of your soul and found a danger present. You must not delay. You should leave immediately.”

“How can I go home?” Reb Yisroel answered. “My belongings are here and besides, I don’t have any money for the journey.” The chassidim wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. They all quickly contributed funds to hire a wagon and driver to take Yisroel home and helped Reb Yisroel gather his few belongings and load the wagon.

“What am I doing?” he thought to himself as the wagon bumped along the dirt road. “I wonder if the Chassidim were just trying to get rid of me. I wonder if they even mentioned my named to the Baal Shem Tov. How could he know about me?” Such thoughts filled his mind as he traveled. He had thoughts of stopping the wagon and turning around, but the urgent words of the Baal Shem Tov disturbed him greatly. Finally he arrived at his hometown. As the wagon came to a stop in front of his house, he hesitated. He finally summoned the courage to knock on the door. A strange man answered the door. “What do you want?” the man asked. “Is Reb Yisroel’s wife at home?”

“She is no longer Reb Yisroel’s wife, and she doesn’t live here. In fact, she is planning to get married in two days.”

Reb Yisroel was shocked. He had never divorced his wife. How could she get married again? He now understood the urgency of the Baal Shem Tov's words. The first thing he must do was to prevent his wife from marrying another man. But how? Reb Yisroel went to the Beis Medrash and sat down to think. As he sat, he overheard several of the local beggars talking about the impending wedding. “I can’t wait for the feast. It will no doubt be lavish because the bride’s father is certainly rich.”

Yisroel then knew what he had to do. He went immediately to the town Rabbi's home. He related his story, insisting that he had never sent his wife a divorce.

The town Rabbi did indeed remember and he believed Yisroel. “Please stay here while I go to your father-in- law and discuss this matter.”

Reb Yisroel’s father-in-law had been deceived by an unscrupulous, traveling darshan (speaker). The darshan had come to town and realized the rich man's great despair because his daughter had been deserted by her husband. So he approached the girl’s father and said, “In my travels, I’ve met your son- in-law and we became friends. I’m quite sure that I can get him to divorce your daughter. Just give me power of attorney to act on your behalf and I will take care of everything.”

“That would be wonderful! And you can be sure that I will pay you well for your kindness,” the rich man told the darshan.

The darshan quickly traveled to another small town some distance away, where he was not known. There he found three men of questionable character and honesty who were willing go along with his ruse for a profit. The darshan then went to a Bais Din (Jewish court), claiming that he had recognized a man at the local inn who was sought for abandoning his wife. “His name is Yisroel and he refuses to give his wife a divorce. Her father has asked me to force him to give a divorce at any cost.”

The Bais Din was convinced by the darshan’s story. They had the man in the inn (one of the three conspirators) apprehended and brought before them. After some “coaxing,” the man admitted that he was the husband that had deserted his wife. Then, the two false witnesses (the other two conspirators) were brought to testify that they also knew the man to be the alleged Yisroel, the runaway husband of the rich man's daughter. The Bais Din managed to extract a divorce, which they gave to the darshan, having the power of attorney of the rich man.

The darshan returned to the rich man with the prized bill of divorce.

“How can I repay you for all your efforts?” the rich man asked.

“I do not want any money,” said the darshan. “I was just doing a kindness. However, I would appreciate the opportunity to introduce an eligible young man to your daughter. That is all I ask.”

The eligible young man just happened to be the darshan’s son, and he made a favorable impression on the family. The wedding date was set and plans were made.

Once the real Yisroel spoke to the town Rabbi, the Rabbi accompanied by the local police, marched to the rich man's home. The Rabbi explained Yisroel's story and accused the darshan and his son of fraud. The police promptly took the two scoundrels to jail. The rich man realized that he had been deceived but was very happy that the plot has been foiled in time. Yisroel found that his wife had meanwhile deeply regretted her unloving behavior towards her husband, and she begged Yisroel remain as her husband.

“And,” concluded the Belzer Rebbe, “they did live happily thereafter. Do you know why I told you this story?” he asked the two men before him. “You, Reb Anshel, and you, Reb Ezriel, were the two brothers and my son Eliezer was Reb Yisroel in a former life. You two owe him a great deal for the shame and discomfort he suffered. I suggest that you increase his share of the earnings and I am sure he will show you the books.”

The People Of Brisk Wait For The Rav To Start Kol Nidrei
One Yom Kippur as the people of Brisk waited to start the Holy Tefillah of Kol Nidrei, the Rav, Rav Binyomin Diskin the father of Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin, was still not in Shul. This was very strange considering Rav Binyomin’s timeliness and his deep consideration for not causing Tircha DiTzibura.

The Gabbai was quickly dispatched to the Rav’s house to see what was causing the delay. Upon entering the house, the Gabbai was astonished to find Rav Binyomin sitting over a Mishnayos learning with his young son. “Moreinu ViRabbeinu,” said the Gabbai, “The whole tzibbur is waiting for the Rav to start Kol Nidrei and he is sitting and learning Mishnayos with his little child?!”
Rav Binyomin burst our crying and he said, “I made a Cheshbon HaNefesh for the Yom HaDin and realized that I need many zechusim to be acquitted in my Din. I searched for a great mitzvah powerful enough to tip the scales all by itself and I could not find a better mitzvah that sitting and learning with my young child.”
Parshas Beshalach: Rav Asher’le MiRiminov - How A Man Supports His Wife
One time a Chasid and his despondent wife came to Rav Asher’le MiRiminov. The wife claimed that her husband did not make a decent living because he was so worried about onaah, accurate scales, and every other minute halacha. The wife complained that he had no right to be such a big tzaddik while his wife and children were starving.
Rav Asher’le MiRiminov answered that the obligation of supporting one’s wife is derived from the passuk (Beshalach 16:16), “Ish laasher biohalo tikachu,” each man should take Man back to his home. The Man in the midbar, said Rav Asher’le was acquired with pure righteousness without the slightest trace of impropriety. Similarly in a Kesuba it is written, “Viafarnes yaschi bikushta,” I will support you honestly. A man is not responsible to break or even slightly bend the laws of honesty and business ethics as the torah prescribes it, to support his wife. The extent of his effort and obligation is where the legal bounds are drawn. The rest is up to HaShem. (Iturei Torah) [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Sukkos 5770

שבת טעם החיים סוכות תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Sukkos 5770

Sukkos and the World to Come
It is fascinating that following Yom Kippur, we celebrate the festival of Sukkos. The Vilna Gaon maintains that the Jewish People in the wilderness receive atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf on Yom Kippur, and the building of the Mishkan commenced on Sukkos. Thus, the Clouds of Glory, which had departed because of the sin, retuned on Sukkos. In commemoration of the return of the Clouds of Glory, we celebrate the festival of Sukkos by sitting in a Sukkah. It would appear, however, that there is also a direct connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkos.
Sukkos protects us from the Evil Eye
One aspect of Yom Kippur that at times goes under the radar is the fact that after a day of judgment, we have been vindicated and HaShem has granted life. While this is certainly cause for celebration, and we rejoice on Sukkos, there is also reason to be concerned. We find that Avraham had brought his beloved son Yitzchak as a sacrifice at the Akeida (Binding of Yitzchak) and Yitzchak remained alive. The Rishonim write that Avraham was concerned that there would be an ayin hara, an Evil Eye, cast on Yitzchak. For this reason Avraham sent Yitzchak away. Some opinions maintain that Avraham sent Yitzchak to Gan Eden, and others maintain that he sent him to study in Yeshiva (Chizkuni Bereishis 22:19 citing Medrash HaGadol and Bereishis Rabbah 56:11. See also Daas Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos Ibid). In a similar vein, subsequent to our miraculous existence following Yom Kippur, we reside in the Sukkah as an escape from The Evil Eye. Evidence to this idea is from the verses in Tehillim where it is said (27:1) LiDovid HaShem ori viyishi, by Dovid, HaShem is my light and my salivation. The Medrash states that the words “my light” refers to Rosh HaShanah and the words “my salvation” allude to Yom Kippur. Further on it is said (verse 5) ki yitzpineini bisukkoh biyom raah , Indeed he will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil. Perhaps this alludes to Sukkos, and it is referred to as the day of evil because of the Evil Eye that seeks to harm the Jew who was granted life on Yom Kippur.
The judgment on Rosh HaShanah is for an immediate taste of the World to Come
There is another aspect of Sukkos that is associated with Yom Kippur. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16b) states that on Rosh HaShanah the righteous are written immediately in the Book of Life, whereas the wicked are written immediately in the Book of the Dead. Tosfos writes that life and death referred to in this Gemara refers to the World to Come. One must wonder, however, how it is possible that every year a person is judged heter he will receive a portion in the World to Come or not. Perhaps we can suggest that Tosfos is alluding to the festival of Sukkos, which is a semblance of the World to Come. Thus, the righteous are rewarded immediately following Yom Kippur with a semblance of the World to Come which is reflected in the festival of Sukkos.
The Shabbos connection
The idea of the World to Come is reflected in Shabbos, which the Gemara states is a semblance of the World to Come. Throughout the week we are under the influence of the forces of evil, and when Shabbos arrives, all harsh judgments depart. This year the first day of Sukkos occurs on Shabbos. We have a chance to reflect on our great fortune of meriting these two special days simultaneously, and HaShem should allows us to merit the coming of Moshiach and the life of the World to Come.
Shabbos Stories
Just one more blow
This is a heartwarming yet chilling story told by Rav Baruch Rabinovitch of Munkacs, son in law of the Minchas Elazar and father of the present Munkacser Rebbe about his late shver, zt”l, and his great Ahavas Yisroel despite his reputation as a "firebrand."

Reb Baruch had a son named Tzvi Nosson Dovid. The Minchas Elazar would call him Tzvi, whereas his father would call him “Dov’che.” He was named Tzvi after the Minchas Elazar’s father and he was named Nosson Dovid after Reb Baruch’s father. For various reasons, Reb Baruch was separated from his wife for a long period of time and he lived in Warsaw. The Minchas Elazar finally sent his daughter to go live with her husband in Warsaw, but after three months the Minchas Elazar became ill with cancer and he begged them to come back, which they did. Reb Boruch would say that his father in law loved his dear grandchild in an “exaggerated way,” considering that his daughter waited for a long time to have that first child. The Minchas Elazar would play with and spoil the child, and Hershelle would sit on his zeide’s lap at the tish.

In the final year of his life the Minchas Elazar took the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul and tried the horn to see if it was in OK condition. Hershelle was in the room at the time and the little boy was visibly excited with the shofar and its sounds. Hershelle asked his zeide for “noch ein blooz,” one more blast, to which his zeide gladly obliged. From then on, for the next month, this became a ritual. Every day the Rav would blow once just for little Hershelle. On Erev Rosh HaShanah Hershelle was there waiting his daily blast, but he was disappointed. “Haint iz Erev Rosh HaShanah, Haint bloozt men nisht, morgen vet men bloozen asach mool in shil,” his zeide told him (today is Rosh HaShanah, today we do not blow, but tomorrow we will blow many time sin shul). The child, however, knew no Chochmes. Hershelle kicked and screamed, telling his zeide “Nor Ein Blooz! Nor Ein Blooz!” (just one more blow, just one more blow). After a while his zeide had rachmones (compassion) on his favorite eynikel (grandchild) and he took the shofar and blew one blooz (blast).
The minhag in Munkacs was that the Rav spoke on Rosh HaShanah before Tekios. That year the Rav went up before the Aron Kodesh, opened the ark and said: “Ribono Shel Olam, Ich darf tshiveh tuhn, ich hub over geven af an halacha. (Master of the world, I must repent, as I violated the halacha). It is written that on Erev Rosh HaShanah one must not blow shofar. Nonetheless, I violated this halacha and blew shofar. The Minchas Elazar began to sob uncontrollably and called out: “Ribono shel Olam, do you know why I transgressed that Halacha? It was because my young grandchild lay on the floor and begged me and cried that I should only blow one blooz for him. My heart melted, and since I could not bear to watch him cry like that, I blew once for him. I did this despite the fact that I should not have. Tatte, how can You stand by and see how millions of your children are down on the floor and cry out to you, “Tatte eyn blooz -TeKa Bishofar Gadol LeChayruseynu (one blast, blow a great Shofar to heard our freedom). Perhaps the time is not right for it yet, as the time for Moshiach has yet to arrive, but your children cry out to you, how can you stand idly by?!”

When Reb Baruch told the story, he cried. Reb Baruch then recounted how at the time that the crowd cried along with the Rav, the Tekios were delayed, and for a long time they could not come to themselves, and loud wailing was heard throughout the shul.”
How much for the esrog and how much for the stereo?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner writes: Rav Sholom Schwadron zt”l would tell the following story about Rav Levi Yitzchak, the Berditchiver Rav. (Found in “Around the Maggid’s Table”.) It offers a sharp insight into the way that our actions are assessed.
One Yom Kippur night, the crowd in the Berditchev shul (synagogue) waited for the chazzan (prayer leader) to begin the holy Kol Nidrei prayers. The Rav motioned to the chazzan, requesting that he wait. All quietly awaited the Rav’s signal to begin but he was immersed deeply in thought. The minutes passed by with people wondering why the Rav was waiting. He was clearly not yet ready to begin.
Soon he turned to his shamash (attendant) and asked if Muttel from the town of Zhitomer was there. All of those within earshot wondered what the Rav might want from Muttel. Scanning the large crowd, the attendant found Muttel, the plain, poor, simple Jew from Zhitomer, sitting off to the side.
“Yes,” the attendant responded, “Muttel is here.” The Rav asked that Muttel be summoned. As soon as Muttel was brought, the Rav began to question him. “Tell me, don’t you live on the land owned by Vladik (a gentile landowner)?” “Yes,” answered the surprised Muttel. “Does Vladik own a dog?” continued the Rav. “Yes,” answered Muttel again, wondering what this information had to do with the Yom Kippur prayers. “Do you know the amount of money that he spent on the dog?” persisted the Rav. “I do,” said Muttel. “He always brags that he spent four hundred rubles to acquire that rare dog.” The Rav was thrilled. “Four hundred rubles? That’s fantastic!” To the astonishment of all those assembled, the Rav, having been supplied with this information about Vladik’s dog, was now ready to begin Kol Nidrei. He motioned to the chazzan to begin.
After the Tefillos (prayers) were completed, a group approached the Rav inquiring about his discussion with Muttel. The Berditchiver smiled and explained. “This year, an incident occurred which troubled me. A poor teacher came to Berditchev from a distant town. Being in debt, he was planning to tutor children, save the money and then return home to pay his creditors. He was here for almost a year and he earned the money he needed and began his return trip. One fateful night, as he slept at an inn, the bag with his hard-earned money was stolen. In the morning, when he realized what had happened, he broke down in tears. A whole years worth of effort had been stolen. Staying at the same inn was Vladik. Hearing the heart-wrenching cries of the teacher he inquired as to what had happened. Upon hearing the story, he approached the teacher, asking him how much money had been stolen. Hearing the sum of four hundred rubles, he immediately removed that amount from his wallet and handed it to the amazed and thankful teacher.
“As we were about to start Kol Nidrei, that incident worried me. How could we hope that HaShem would view us favorably? Who amongst us had performed an act as generous and kind as that of Vladik?
“Then I remembered the dog. I had heard that he had spent a large sum on a pet but I didn't know how much. When Muttel told me that it had been four hundred rubles, I was at ease. That amount clearly didn't mean all that much to him. His helping the teacher was an act of kindness but not an act of sacrifice. I felt we could start Kol Nidrei.”
Rav Sholom then continued. “We’re proud when we spend $50 on an esrog, or we give $250 to tzedakah, or we spend $500 on Tefillin. Beautiful! But how much was the stereo? How much was the computer? Perhaps the money spent on the mitzvah wasn't really the sacrifice that we believed it was. If we spend freely on our material objects then we must also spend freely on our spiritual objects.”
An Esrog from Gan Eden
Rabbi Ciner writes further: On the first morning of Sukkos Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk was intrigued by a scent in the shul’s air. After the Tefillah, he began to investigate the esrogim of the congregants. He wasn’t at ease until he had smelled the small, simple esrog of a stranger sitting in the corner. "Where did you acquire this esrog? It has the scent of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden)!
The guest hesitantly told the following story. “I don’t make a lot of money but every year I save enough to buy an expensive esrog. This year, I took the fifty gulden I had saved and traveled to Lemberg in search of a beautiful esrog. At one of my lodgings, I heard a commotion downstairs. A burly man was begging the innkeeper to help him. He was a wagon-driver and his horse had broken his leg. The innkeeper had a horse for sale for fifty gulden which was far beyond the means of the wagon-driver. I approached the innkeeper and offered to pay him forty five gulden for the horse. He agreed and I handed the reins over to the wagon-driver. With the remaining five gulden, I could only afford this small, simple esrog.”
Rabbi Elimelech now understood why the scent of Gan Eden was emanating from this esrog. He requested to hold such an esrog for a few moments.
He named her Lulava
Rabbi Ciner writes further: “In the Footsteps of the Maggid” tells of Rav Shammai, the head of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society). Whereas, outside of Eretz Yisroel, the Chevra Kadisha is primarily busy with the taharah (purification) process performed before burial, here in Eretz Yisroel, their duties also include gathering the remains of terror and battle victims and giving them a proper and dignified burial.
The story took place during the Yom Kippur war, when we were caught by surprise and attacked by Arabs on all fronts. For days after Yom Kippur and during Sukkos, Rav Shammai and his assistants would travel throughout the Sinai desert and southward toward Suez where they caringly tended to the bodies of the fallen.
On Sukkos, he had with him in his jeep his siddur (prayer book), his tallis (prayer shawl), his Tehilim (Psalms), his Lulav and his esrog. At every base, soldiers of all backgrounds would beg him to allow them to use these. He would stay as long as he could, sometimes delaying his scheduled departure for hours. Eventually, however, he had to tell the disappointed young men still in line that he needed to move on. He had been summoned elsewhere.
On the last day of Sukkos, Rav Shammai and his assistants were near the Suez. As he approached a newly constructed army base in the wide open desert, it occurred to him that, since he had already prayed with his lulav and esrog on that final day of Sukkos, he could leave them in the army base if he'd be summoned elsewhere.
Shortly after Rav Shammai arrived, a long line of soldiers began to form, awaiting their turn to use his lulav and esrog. As a crowd began to assemble, a young non-religious soldier, driving an ammunition truck, was making his way southward. Noticing a large crowd, he got out of his truck and made his way on foot to where the soldiers had assembled.
He came closer and asked what the commotion was all about. Another soldier explained to him that Rav Shammai had come and the soldiers were all waiting for an opportunity to use his lulav and esrog. The driver didn’t seem too interested in waiting around, but when one of the soldiers mentioned that it was the last day to perform the mitzvah, he decided to wait on line.
His turn arrived after a short period of time. Just as he was gingerly holding the lulav and esrog, a bomb tore into his truck. It exploded and set off multiple explosions of the ammunition on board. The blasts were so powerful that a crater was formed in the ground where the truck had been parked. Not even a shard of metal could be found from the demolished vehicle.
Three months later, Rav Shammai read a short notice in the army newspaper. This driver's wife had given birth to a girl. The announcement included a statement by the new father. "I believe with every fiber of my being that I am alive today and I merited to see my new daughter only because of the mitzvah I was doing at the time that my truck was bombed.” In thanks to HaShem he named his daughter Lulava. [Reprinted with permission from]
An Esrog For Your Wife?

Rav Shalom Eisen, zt”l, was a Dayan and moreh tzedek in Yerushalayim more than fifty years ago. He was also known as an expert in the kashrus and hiddurim of esrogim and lulavim. As each Sukkos approached, hundreds of people would appear at his house to show him the arba minim which they purchased.
One year, an avreich approached him with a beautiful esrog, mehudar in all its aspects, to receive R’ Eisen’s approval. R’ Eisen examined it and then shook his head and said, “This esrog is not for you.” The avreich was astounded. He had delved into the halachos of the arba minim, and had spent a considerable amount of time purchasing such a mehudar esrog. Why was Rav Eisen telling him that this esrog was not for him?
He asked Rav Eisen, “Is there an halachic problem with this esrog? Instead of answering him, Rav Shalom asked him a question, “What do you do?” The avreich answered, “I learn in a kollel here in Yerushalayim.” “How much do you get paid?” The avreich answered him, and told him the exact amount of money he received from his kollel. “And how much are they asking for this esrog?” inquired Rav Shalom. The avreich answered that they were asking a considerable amount of money.
Rav Eisen said, “This is what I thought from the beginning. You are right; the esrog itself is mehudar. But if you listen to me, I would advise you to purchase a cheaper esrog, and with the remaining money, purchase something for your wife likvod Yom Tov. This is true kavod Yom Tov.” (Chayim Sheyash Bahem)
Rav Chaim Kanievsky - Before You Can Build A House
A young lady learning in a seminary in Binei Brak once came to the house of Rav Chaim Kanievsky for advice for herself and for her entire class. The girls in the class had gradually realized that something strange was happening with their class. Despite the fact that the girls were all of marriageable age and had long since started dating, not one of the girls from the class had become engaged. The girls’ friends from different classes or schools were beginning to marry and establish homes, but their class seemed to be stuck. The girls wanted to know what Rav Chaim’s opinion was on this, and what he advised them to do.

Rav Chaim said that since this phenomenon was affecting the entire class then it must have been a “group sin” and it was necessary for the class to contemplate what the sin was. He said that the two possibilities were that they insulted either a teacher or one of their peers.
The girl consulted with her classmates, and after discussing the issue, they reached the conclusion that they had not insulted any of their teachers, but it was very likely that they had hurt one of their peers.

One of their peers had an awkward appearance, and it was possible that the girls had treated her differently due to her appearance. No one had deliberately hurt her, but it seemed that her feelings had been hurt. The girls of the class sent a messenger to her with a request that she forgive them. However, to their surprise, the girl sent back a message that she does not forgive them!

The girls in the class realized that she had been seriously hurt, and the entire class decided to go to her house to appease her. While they were there, they promised her that they would personally become involved in finding her a suitable shidduch. A father of one of the girls also promised to pay the girl’s shadchunus fee up to a thousand dollars.
The girl was impressed by the girls’ effort and sincere teshuvah, and forgave them with a complete heart. Two weeks later, four of the girls were on their way to becoming engaged! (Barchi Nafshi)
Rav Elyashiv - 30 Minutes On Yom Kippur
When the family of Reb Elyashiv was sitting shiva for Rebbetzin Elyashiv, a Canadian Jew came to be menachem avel. He told them he came especially to be menachem avel as a sign of gratitude to Rebbetzin Elyashiv for helping his family during a painful and distressing period.
The man related that one of his daughters had veered from the path of Yiddishkeit, and abandoned every vestige of Jewish life. Eventually, she did the worst possible thing, and actually married a non-Jew. "Every effort we made to convince her that she shouldn't do this horrible thing fell on deaf ears," said the father. He added that he felt responsible for her descent, since it happened after he decided to leave Eretz Yisroel and move to Canada because of his difficulty in earning a living.
His daughter left Canada, and moved with her husband to Switzerland. Eventually, their marriage soured, and she and her husband separated. This took place at the beginning of Chodesh Elul. Immediately after Yom Kippur, the daughter suddenly died. The Rabbanim in Switzerland refused to bury his daughter in a Jewish cemetery since for years she had lived as a non-Jew in all respects.
The father continued his story in a broken voice, "I called Rebbetzin Elyashiv and requested that she ask Reb Elyashiv his opinion on the matter. R' Elyashiv asked what my daughter did on the last Yom Kippur of her life. I asked around the community in Switzerland, and I found out that she spent a half hour in shul that Yom Kippur. When Reb Elyashiv heard this, he paskened that she could be brought to kever Yisroel. The fact that she was in shul on Yom Kippur proved that her neshama was connected to the Jewish nation, and identified with the yearning for teshuva which Yom Kippur represents. (Aleinu Lishabeiach)
Rav Ezra Attia And The Unlikely Bird's Nest
One day, Rav Ezra Attia, the Great Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef (1885-1970), was giving over his daily shiur in Gemara to a group of talmidei chachamim and balabattim. The shiur that day was on Maseches Chulin, and the discussion was on the mitzvah of shiluach haken -sending the mother bird away before taking her eggs. Rav Ezra quoted the Gemara in Chulin which questions what procedure to use if one finds a nest on the head of a person. One of the participants commented in a scornful voice, “What kind of Gemara is this? Why does the Gemara discuss such an implausible scenario?”
Rav Ezra answered firmly, “Whatever is written in the Gemara is kodesh, and we are forbidden to doubt any of it, chalila.” The man remained silent, but it was apparent to the others that he was not satisfied and was skeptical of the relevance of this Gemara.

Suddenly, one of the rav’s talmidim, who had been absent for an extended time, entered the room. Rav Ezra greeted him warmly, “Sholom Aleichem! Where have you been? We missed you!” The talmid answered, “I was traveling for business reasons. Actually, I was in India - which is quite an interesting country.”
Rav Ezra queried, “What’s so interesting about it?” The talmid replied, “I saw strange things there that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Once, I actually saw a man sitting completely still under a tree with his arms folded. He sat in that position for three days, and on the third day, a bird landed on his head and started to construct a nest in his hair.”
“He didn’t send the bird away?” “No. He continued sitting in the same position without moving.” Rav Ezra smiled broadly. “That is quite interesting. We can clearly see that the Gemara does not ask about “implausible scenarios” and that ‘Moshe emes visoraso emes.”’
Rav Shlomo Kluger Stops The Malach HaMaves in Court
Rav Shlomo Kluger of Brod was known for his fierce opposition against the Reform movement, whose members called themselves Maskilim. The Maskilim began changing old-age customs, including the customs involving in burying the dead. They began transporting the niftar in a wagon, instead of the customary method of carrying the niftar in their hands and walking on foot during the funeral. When R’ Kluger became aware of this, he forbade any niftar which was carried by wagon to be brought to Kever Yisroel, Jewish burial. Instead, the niftar would have to be buried among non-Jews.
When the Maskilim heard about Rav Kluger’s decision, they started a court case against him in the non-Jewish court. The judge ruled that the dead should be transported in wagons until the case was heard. The heads of the Torah community came to Rav Kluger with heavy hearts, and told him about the judge’s decision. They asked him what to do when the next funeral became imminent.
Rav Kluger answered them, “I promise you that until the judge will legally allow us to continue with our custom, no one from the kahal in Brod will die!”
Three months passed, and not only were there no deaths during this period, but there were also no stillborns. When the court case was finally heard, the judge asked R’ Shlomo, “Bring me a proof from the Tanach, that the dead body is carried specifically in one’s arms. The Rav immediately replied, “It’s written in Parshas Vayehi, ‘And they carried Yaakov their father.’” The judge accepted the proof and said, “The Rav is right – that’s how it’s written, to carry in the hands and not in a wagon.” (Told over by R’ Yaakov Teitelbaum from his Rav, Rav Meir Arik) (Shaal Avicha Yeyegadcha) [Reprinted with permission from]
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Sukkos 5770
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