Omaha, Nebraska


This past Shabbos I spent a wondrous weekend in Omaha, Nebraska by my cousins, Rabbi Jonathan Gross and his wife, Miriam, and their three lovely kids.  I left Chicago on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6:00 PM and arrived in Omaha at 3:30 AM.  I let myself in their house and went to sleep.


1) Jean Sklar – Morgenstern                         Shirley Sklar-Maza

2)   Mitchell A. Morgenstern                         Zlat (Sandy) Maza-Gross

3)                                                                       Rabbi Jonathan Gross

Friday – May 24, 2013

Got up at 10:00 AM and davened at Rabbi Jonathan Gross’s Shul, Beth Israel Synagogue.  Rabbi Gross gave a class at 11:00 AM at the JCC on Jewish Conspiracies.  Part of the focus was on the Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz – Rabbi Yaakov Emden controversy.   We have a friendly disagreement on the controversy, as to whether Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz was 100% exonerated.  (Update 5/28/2106 –  a friend of mine, a Rabbi from Indianapolis agreed with Rabbi Jonathan Gross, however, I told  him that the Kotzker was fond of Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz and I believe the Kotzker.)  The class concluded at 12:00 PM and we went for lunch.  Every Friday, the Omaha JCC  opens a deli for the community.  The JCC is magnificent.   I  met a kid from Omaha who is active duty IDF.  I was impressed.

After lunch we went to visit Rabbi Meir Kripke.  His son was there, Professor Saul Kripke.  I was honored to visit.

We met Rabbi Katzman, the Lubavitch Shliach to Omaha, and his family at the JCC.  Mrs. Katzman’s cousin’s daughter, Soshie,  is married to my nephew, Menachem Mendel from Toronto.  We are Misphpacha.

We took a long walk and talked and afterwards.  Rabbi Jonathan Gross is a worthy grandson of Rabbi Yosef Maza, TZL  I was impressed that when Rabbi Gross was in Yeshiva, he spent many Shabbosim with his Zaidi absorbing the Torah, Yeras Shamayim, and wisdom of Reb Yosef Maza.

I took a nap and got ready for Shabbos.

Bnei Israel Synogague – Parshas Behaloscha

Shabbos – Friday night

Made it to Shul at 7:00 PM for Friday night services.   In my life long quest to visit as many   Synogagues across America in small cities as posisble, Omaha is now off my “to visit” list.   Walked to Rabbi Gross’s house, an 8 minute walk.    Great Shabbos meal prepared by the Rebbitzin, Miriam.  The food flowed – most importantly, plenty of rice.   I found out that her parents were students of Rabbi Shlomo Twerski TZ: in Denver and I am very impressed.  Rabbi Shlomo Twerski never received the recogniton he deserved.  I was in the Yeshiva in Denver and it is my great loss and regret that I never went to his Tisch.  After all I was in a Litvische Yeshiva and to go to a Rebi’s Tisch was just not done, especially one who was in the vanguard of influencing Jews to discover their roots.   Rabbi and Rebbitzen Gross had two couples over for the meal, one is the CEO of the JCC and the other is the incoming president of the Omaha Jewish Federation.

Shabbos Morning

Davening at 9:00 AM.  Met the congregants.  Played Jewish geography.  Rabbi Gross gave an excellent speech.  Kiddush, Shabbos meal at the Rabbi, Shabbos nap,  At the Shaalos Seudas meal, Rabbi Gross honored me by allowing me to speak.  I spoke about the Kotzker and told the story of when the Kotzker and Chidusshei Harim spent 1.5 days  deciding who will assume leadership of Polish Jewry in 1827 after the death of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshicaha, see below  He liked it and asked me if I would like to be a scholar in residence.  We tentatively agreed on Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday morning

Minyan, breakfast at the bagel store, schmoozing, and on the road at 1:00 PM for the 8.5 hour drive back to Chicago.  Crossed the mighty Mississippi at Davenport, Iowa.



Rabbi Jonathan Gross’s Shabbos Drasha

Rabbi Gross for his Shabbos Drasha spoke about leadership.  The same topic also fits in with this coming week’s Torah portion, Shelach, which deals with the tragic story of the spies.


The heart of Rabbi Gross’s  speech was on Chapter 10; Verses 26 – 29, refer to the below verses.  It talks about two elders, Eldad and Medad.  who prophesied the Moshe will die and Joshua would take the Jewish people into Israel.   Gershon the son of Moshe (per Rashi) runs to Moshe and Joshua,  reporting to them the Eldad and Medad were prophesying about the death of Moses.    Joshua said imprison them.  Rashi has two explanations.  The first is that make them leaders and they will waste away.  Great explanation,  The second is the plain meaning from Onkalys, imprison them, meaning that they are being at best disrespectful to Moses, and at worst creating dissention and possible rebellion in the Jewish nation.  Moshe’s response was that they did nothing wrong.    Moshe was assured in his leadership and himself.  He did not feel threatened.  He realized that Eldad and Medad were not being rebellious.  There was no  need to overreact.

This is great leadership.  Having the humility and wisdom that people will say things that are not appropriate and not feeling that you have to crush them.  Understanding situations.  Contrast Moshe’s leadership with the rebellion of  Korach and the ten spies., who wanted leadership positions  They wanted to control.  It was about them and not about true leadership.  They wanted leadership for their own self interests.  Regarding the spies, see the Satmer Rov in his book on the Bible who beautifully explains the sin of the spies in this manner.

I added two ideas to Rabbi Gross’s speech:

1)      The person telling Moshe about the words of Eldad and Medad was Gershom, the son of Moshe (based on a Midrash Tanchuma).  It is interesting that, after Gershom’s  birth, this is one of two indirect mentions of Gershom.  The second is when Moshe wanted God to bestow leadership to his sons after his death.  I wonder if Gershom’s report to his father, Moshe, was a fatal flaw in his character, and as a result he could not succeed Moshe; and this led years later to  Gershom’s son becoming a priest to an Idol.  The flaw was that perhaps Gershom meant to agitate, and not for pure reasons.

2)      I heard a great story about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.  I showed Rabbi Gedaliah  Schwartz the book, Eyes to See, written by a Rabbi Schwartz, who lived in New York after WW II, and was from the city of Auswitz.  Rabbi Schwartz years ago wrote a book that was critical and I guess somewhat disrespectful of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s Halachic decisions.  Someone asked Rabbi Moshe Feinstein what to do, and Rabbi Feinstein said, that this Rabbi Schwartz is entitled to disagree.     Rabbi Moshe Feinstein had the humility and the confidence to say that if someone disagrees with me, even if they are passionate about it that is okay, no need to overreact.  This is leadership, recognizing that others can have a different  opinion that it is okay to disagree, and not to overreact.

When I spoke about Kotzk after Mincha, I told the story that when the Kotzker and the RIM were deciding who was to assume leadership after the death of Reb Simcha Bunim,


the final words heard was the Kotzker saying to the RIM,  Leadership will fall to either of us, either I humble, I to you or you to me.  The RIM accepted the Kotzker as the Rebi, the successor to Reb Simcha Bunim.  The Kotzker was 40 years old at the time and the RIM was 28.  Despite the Kotzker being 12 years older, he was willing to humble himself to the RIM.  This is true leadership, it is not about ego.  It is about the future of the Jews in Poland and only the proper person can be the leader.  The Kotzker was saying that if you, the RIM, is the proper leader I will be your Chasid, despite my being much older.

The verses are as follows:

26. Now two men remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Medad, and the spirit rested upon them. They were among those written, but they did not go out to the tent, but prophesied in the camp.

כו. וַיִּשָּׁאֲרוּ שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים | בַּמַּחֲנֶה שֵׁם הָאֶחָד | אֶלְדָּד וְשֵׁם הַשֵּׁנִי מֵידָד וַתָּנַח עֲלֵהֶם הָרוּחַ וְהֵמָּה בַּכְּתֻבִים וְלֹא יָצְאוּ הָאֹהֱלָה וַיִּתְנַבְּאוּ בַּמַּחֲנֶה:

27. The lad ran and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”

כז. וַיָּרָץ הַנַּעַר וַיַּגֵּד לְמשֶׁה וַיֹּאמַר אֶלְדָּד וּמֵידָד מִתְנַבְּאִים בַּמַּחֲנֶה:

The lad ran: Some say this was Moses’ son, Gershom. — [Tanchuma Beha’alothecha 12]

וירץ הנער: יש אומרים גרשום בן משה היה:

28. Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant from his youth, answered and said, Moses, my master, imprison them!”

כח. וַיַּעַן יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מְשָׁרֵת משֶׁה מִבְּחֻרָיו וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנִי משֶׁה כְּלָאֵם:

imprison them: Heb. כְּלָאֵם. Impose upon them communal responsibilities and they will be finished (כָּלִים) [as prophets] by themselves (Sanh. 17a). Another interpretation: Imprison them (בֵּית הַכֶּלֶא) (Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:21, Targum Onkelos), for they were prophesying that Moses would die and Joshua would take them into the Land of Israel. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:21, Sanh. 17a]

כלאם: הטל עליהם צרכי צבור והם כלים מאליהם. דבר אחר תנם אל בית הכלא, לפי שהיו מתנבאים משה מת ויהושע מכניס את ישראל לארץ:

29. Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would bestow His spirit upon them!”

כט. וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ משֶׁה הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי וּמִי יִתֵּן כָּל עַם יְהֹוָה נְבִיאִים כִּי יִתֵּן יְהֹוָה אֶת רוּחוֹ עֲלֵיהֶם:

Are you zealous for my sake?: Are you a zealous for me? Are you being zealous for what I should be zealous? The word לִי means בִּשְׁבִילִי,“for my sake.” The term קִנְאָה is used to denote a person who takes a matter to heart, whether to avenge or to help; in old French, enportement; holding the bulk of the burden.

המקנא אתה לי: הקנאי אתה לי הקנאתי אתה מקנא:


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