Shabbos – Parshas Ki Tz’zeh

Woke up late and did not feel well. Decided that I needed the round trip 11 mile walk to Anshe Sholom. Left a little late, 8:30 AM. Walking on Broadway, near the Shul, I saw a family with 5 kids walking to Shul. I knew that they could not be from the neighborhood, as it is rare for a large family to belong to Anshe Sholem and the boy was wearing his Tzizis out. By the time a family has a few kids, they move north to West Rogers Park or Skokie.

Of course I spoke to them and they were visiting Chicago from Teaneck, New Jersey, ground zero for Modern Orthodox Jews. It seems that everyone at Boca Raton Synagogue has a relative in Teaneck. The family belongs to Rabbi Sholem Baum’s Shul, Kether Torah (refer to my July post) and live a block from my cousins in Teaneck.  They said, my cousins are the ones  that have a son (Rabbi in Omaha, Neberska, featured on my Blog) who sold  his Chometz to Warren Buffett.

They said they saw Rabbi Perry Tirschwell a few weeks ago. Rabbi Tirschwell is moving to Teaneck. I know Rabbi Perry Tirschwell from Boca Raton and wish him well in his new position as National Director, National Council of Young Israel.

Walked into Anshe Sholem at 10:20 AM and the services were at the fifth Aliyah. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld introduces each Aliyah with a 2 minute Torah thought.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld spoke on these Verses:

אֶלבֵּיתוֹ, לַעֲבֹט עֲבֹטוֹ.

10 When thou dost lend thy neighbour any manner of loan, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.

יא  בַּחוּץ, תַּעֲמֹד; וְהָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה נֹשֶׁה בוֹ, יוֹצִיא אֵלֶיךָ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט, הַחוּצָה.

11 Thou shalt stand without, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring forth the pledge without unto thee.

יב  וְאִםאִישׁ עָנִי, הוּאלֹא תִשְׁכַּב, בַּעֲבֹטוֹ.

12 And if he be a poor man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge;

יג  הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיב לוֹ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וְשָׁכַב בְּשַׂלְמָתוֹ וּבֵרְכֶךָּ; וּלְךָ תִּהְיֶה צְדָקָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.  {ס}

13 thou shalt surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless thee; and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God. {S}

Rabbi Wolkenfeld* said that the Torah is telling us that we have to treat people in poverty with respect. We cannot use laws to criminalize poverty. We cannot use the law to hurt and destroy poor people. Rabbi Wolkenfeld gave an example of a poor person with a car that has a broken tail light. He cannot fix it because he has no money. A cop gives him a ticket for not having a tail light. The poor person misses the court date because he cannot take time off from work or does not have money to pay the ticket. There is now a warrant for his arrest. The law has criminalized poverty. This is a terrible injustice. The Torah is telling us that we cannot have laws that criminalize poverty.


Years ago my brother missed a court date for a ticket and later that day the police showed up at my brother’s job to arrest him. My brother was dealing with life’s issues and forgot the court date. Luckily my brother was able to take care of the ticket. Imagine if he hadn’t. He may have ended up in jail and possibly his life ruined. Recently, my friend told me his tragic story. Years ago he received a ticket for a nonsensical issue, was not able to go to court, and this led to series of events that led to years of problems, all because the law criminalized innocent behavior.

I walked over the Rabbi Wolkenfeld and told him that my 11 mile round trip walk, just to spend 5 minutes in Shul and hear the above Torah though was all worth it. I felt that I could leave the Shul after just five minutes, even though I did not daven, because I heard a beautiful, profound Torah lesson. I stayed and Rabbi Wolkenfeld ‘s speech was magnificent. It was about Jewish identity and with that we become caring people, not only to our family but to all Jews, and to the world.

Left Anshe Sholem at 11:12 AM and made it home at 12:50 PM.

* Rabbi David Wolkenfeld added the following important comments:

Thank you for joining us at ASBI this Shabbat and for this kind and thoughtful reaction to what I said. I hope you’ll make the trek to Lakeview frequently!

One quick-point to emphasize. I believe that the Torah isn’t just telling us to “respect” the poor, but is calling on us to accept some amount of increased risk in our dealings with the poor (letting them have their collateral at night) because applying the law in an objective way, would have a disproportionate impact on the poor [c.f. Anatole France: In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges] and could lead to criminalizing poverty as I described. For more on “criminalizing poverty” see, the last section of this powerful essay by Barbara Ehrenreich:

kol tuv,




Gettysburg: Hallowed Ground

The next day after the Caplan wedding, I decided to visit Gettysburg as it is one hour north-west of Baltimore and on the way to Chicago. I am fascinated by the Civil War and have always wanted to visit Civil War battle sites. I stayed to absorb the battle scene. It is hallowed ground and I had the Zechus to stand where heroes gave their lives to preserve the Union and be the hope for mankind. Baruch Hashem that the Union was victorious.  I expected to say Psalms (Tehillem); however, forgot my Siddur and failed to pay proper respect.  The Gettysburg battlefield is such hallowed ground that Mitch Morgenstern as an Orthodox Jew is obligated to recognize the sacrifice and tragedy of men.  I feel that the Torah learning in America is ultimately due to the sacrifice of these men.  I would like to sit in the middle of the site and learn a Blatt of Daf Yomi.  We as Orthodox Jews have to be in the conversation of America, be a light to America.   As I wrote yesterday, this is the legacy of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

I started my visit, by viewing the 22 minute film narrated by Morgan Freeman and saw the Cyclorama.

Afterwards, went to visit the battle sites. I crossed Taneytown Road and walked along the High Water Mark Trail to The Bloody Angle and the High Water Mark. The highwater mark of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. Similar to a high water mark of water, the term is a reference to arguably the Confederate Army’s best chance of achieving victory in the war.  This was the center of the Union line and was the target of Pickett’s Charge . Generals Pickett and Trimble marched on the Union line with approximately 12,000 soldiers. The Union center had 7,000 troops but was well dug in and had the high ground. Pickett’s Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge’s commander, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, and it was arguably an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered psychologically.


There is an area called the High Water Mark, as this was thee farthest point reached by the attack has been referred to as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. Up until Gettysburg, the Union was losing battle after battle, demoralized, with no end in sight. Lincoln’s magnificent Gettysburg address was delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery .

I met Greg, who has been to Gettysburg many times. He is Southern.  He walked me through the battlefield and gave me a private tour. He told me that up until Gettysburg Lee never attacked the center of the Union line He went after the Union’s flanks and attacked the center from three sides. However, at Gettysburg on July 1st and 2nd, the Confederate attacks on both Union flanks had failed.   General Robert E. Lee was determined to strike the Union center on the third day. On the night of July 2, General Meade correctly predicted at a council of war that Lee would try an attack on his lines in the center the following morning.  However, there seems to be some contradictions because it does appear that the Union reinforced their right and left flanks, leaving the center somewhat vulnerable.

Greg added that there was speculation that Lee was ill that morning, was frustrated, and as a result uncharacteristically attacked the Union center. Lee did have the superiority of numbers, so the decision may have made some sense. However, Pickett had to march his army in the hot sun, a little under one mile from their front line located at Seminary Ridge.


He had to turn and funnel his troops into The Angle where the union was dug in on Cemetery Ridge. The Union army held the high ground and when the confederate army came within range, the Union army opened up with a devastating barrage of iron the mowed down the Confederate troops. The Union army held strong during the three days of Gettysburg and turned the tide of the war.

Greg also told me that Longstreet and Lee did not get along and Longstreet hesitated attacking the Union center because of their defeat the day before.  He knew the Union had brought up reinforcements, and felt he would not be victorious. Greg also told me the Jeb Stuart’s Calvary were to attack the Union forces from the rear or from the east and put the Union army in a vise. However, Lee had no idea of Jeb Stuart’s location and Jeb Stuart arrived late on July 2nd, too late to make a difference on July 1st and 2nd, and seemingly ineffective on July 3.

Years later, when asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, General Pickett replied: “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”[2]     While the confederate battle strategy may have had shortcomings; it was the Yankees.   The Union field generals fought an inspired battle (I would add a God inspired battle), leading their men to stand up to the Confederate army, with courage and  fortitude,  which was lacking in many battles up until Gettysburg.

Map of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.



As I am writing this post, I am now watching on YouTube the 1993 movie, Gettysburg.  I am 1:38 hours into a 4 hour movie.

BALTIMORE – A Jewish Wedding

July 27, 2013 – Saturday Night 10:30 PM – Motzei Shabbos:

Left Chicago for a 12 hour drive to Baltimore for Nachum Caplan’s wedding. I had 15 hours to make the afternoon wedding in Baltimore. 2:15 PM Kabulis Ponim and 3:00 PM Chuppah.

I folded the seats in the second and third row so I would have a comfortable place to sleep. I had my son Eli download Torah classes. I first listened to two Blatt of Daf Yomi. I was frustrated because I could not think through my drowsiness to fully understand the Shiurim. Pulled over at 1:30 PM to sleep for an hour and again at 4:00 PM. I got up at 6:30 AM. I was still tired, so I purchased a 5 hour energy drink. The drink hit me with a boost of energy and I was wide awake. I used up my three hour window, so I had to put the pedal to the metal.

I listened to two classes on Zionism from Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner given in Toronto. The classes were: The Roots of Anti- Zionism and the Unique Zionism of Menachem Begin, Was Menachem Begin a Religions Zionist. Great lectures.  One thing that was said is that one of the reasons for opposition to the Zionist movement was the way the religious  Jews were supported.  They had no economic base.  It was done from donations collected from Hungary and Poland and divided  among the people.    Israel was to be a spiritual place only.   The Zionists wanted to build up a land so that the jews in Israel would be self-sustaining.  My great-great grandfather, the Kozker – Pilaver Rebbe wrote in the 1880’s in his prophetic book, Sholem Yerushalim, that there is no commandment to live in Israel and be supported by donations from outside Israel.  Israel is to build up as an agricultural society and be self sustaining.  When I saw this, I understand the opposition to my great, great-grandfather.  I believe that this idea was also the position of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Engel, the author fo the Gelyon Hashas.

I had a problem as I would be pulling into the wedding right before the ceremony. I would prefer a shower, however I did not think it would happen. My mother called me a 1:00 PM that the caterer, Simcha Gross (who shadowed the holy Reb Naftoli in camp), would help. I called Simcha Gross and he told me that I can shower and change at the wedding hall. Problem solved thanks to my mother.

I pulled in at 2:56 PM, met Simcha Gross, thanked him profusely, showered, changed, and made it to the wedding as they were starting the Bedecking. I wished everyone a Mazel Tov. It was great. I was the sole representative of my family. My aunt, the grandmother of the Groom teared up when she saw me. The 12 hour drive and lack of sleep was all worth it.

Bonus – Rabbi Efrem Goldberg came in for the wedding. I thanked him for everything.

Even better, Rabbi Jonathan and Mashie Gross, the Rabbi in Middle America,  were at the wedding. Mashie is from Baltimore and they were visiting her parents.

Great wedding. Good meal. Thank you Simcha Gross for putting out the smorgasbord food during the meal. Everyone was happy, much dancing. After the wedding went to my cousin’s house, Elya and Chanie. Got a chance to catch up with this side of the family. My aunt was there along with some of her kids. Great conversation. Went to bed at 12:30 AM.

 In Baltimore, right after the wedding at Shomrei Emunah, I met a man whose wife is a descendant of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1881).  I expressed my love of the book of Haphtarah’s from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.   Among Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s themes is the need for Jews to be the Light to the Nations.  I also see Zionism as a major theme.   I reconcile the Zionism of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to religious Zionism.   He said that Jews can only go back to Israel with God bringing the messiah and the Jews have to wait in Europe and America.  Had Rabbi SRH seen the Dreyfus trial, the Kishinev massacre, spoken to Herzl, and read Moses Hess’s Rome and Jerusalem his views would have changed.

July 29, 2013 – Monday Morning:

Opened my eyes at 7:00 AM. Stayed in bed as it was the morning after. I felt a headache coming on, so I stayed in bed. Made it to the Agudah at 8:20 AM for morning prayers.

Went to visit Rabbi Jonathan Gross’s father in law, Aaron, Mashie’s father. I had a great visit. We are very much alike and enjoyed his company. They have a lovely home. Aaron has a mini-farm in his backyard. He gave me two bottles of his home-made wine. Aaron and his wife grew up in the 60s and 70s. We shared stories. Aaron should be teaching kids farming, carpentry, and other practical courses. He would be perfect.

At 10:30 AM left Baltimore.