Megilah 12A – Missed Opportunity – History Repeats Itself

July 24, 2014

The war in Gaza is continuing.  Let us hope for peace and security.  

 This morning in Daf Yomi I learned an amazing Gemara. It almost mirrors events in the Jewish world from the late 1700s to 1948. It mirrors the period of time when the students of the Besht and Gra start to move back to Israel to settle the land and bring the Messiah, and ends in 1948 when a Jewish state is created, and Jews have a homeland.

 The Gemara in Megillah 11b, brings down two verses that talks about the 70 years in which the Jews will be in the Babylonian exile.   

 Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah Chapter 29, Verse 10

1) . כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהֹוָה כִּי לְפִי מְלֹאת לְבָבֶל שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה אֶפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם וַהֲקִמֹתִי עֲלֵיכֶם אֶת דְּבָרִי הַטּוֹב לְהָשִׁיב אֶתְכֶם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה:

 10. For so said the Lord: For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfill My good word toward you, to restore you to this place.

 Daniel – Chapter 9, Verse 2

ב. בִּשְׁנַת אַחַת לְמָלְכוֹ אֲנִי דָּנִיֵּאל בִּינֹתִי בַּסְּפָרִים מִסְפַּר הַשָּׁנִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה דְבַר יְהֹוָה אֶל יִרְמִיָה הַנָּבִיא לְמַלֹּאות לְחָרְבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה:

 In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, contemplated the calculations, the number of the years that the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah the prophet, since the destruction of Jerusalem seventy years.

 These two Verses that talk about the 70 year exile, uses different terms for the 70 years. Daniel 9:2 talks about “70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem” and Yirmiyahu talks about “For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon.” At first I thought that the two verses referred to the same start time, the destruction of Jerusalem, the language is different but the meaning is the same. 

However the Gemara on 12a says that these two verses are two different 70 year periods.   Yirmiyahu 29:10 starts when Babylonia became a world power and ended 70 years later when Cyrus took power a few years before the reign of Ahasveiros.

The following is the Talmud on 12a:

“Still, there is a contradiction between the texts? It is written [in one], For at the completion of the 70 years of Babylon the jews will be restored to Israel and it is written [in the other], 70 years afer the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews will be returned to Israel.

 Raba replied: [The first term] was for a remembernce only, and this was fulfilled, as it is written, Thus said Cyrus king of Persia,  God has made me the ruler of the entire world and he has commanded to build him a house in Jerusalem.

 Rav Nachman son of Rav Hisda gave the following exposition. What is the meaning of the verse, Thus said the Lord to his “anointed”  to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold. Now was Cyrus the anointed as a king by the Lord?   Rather what it means is: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Messiah: I have a complaint on your behalf against Cyrus. I said, He shall build my house and gather my exiles, and he [merely] said, Whosoever there is among you of all his people, let him go up to Jerusalem (but did not command all to return).

This Gemara is saying that both 70 year terms are true.  Cyrus should have forced the Jews to go back to Israel, built the Temple, and the Messiah would have come during the reign of Cyrus and before Achashveirosh. AMAZING. This would be done via the efforts of a non-Jewish king, and through natural means. Haflah V’Phalah.   The prophecy of the 70 years in Yirmiyahu 29:10 would have come true with Cyrus initiating the return back to Eretz Yisroel and not through miraculous means. In fact the Rashba says that a Jewish king who had been dead for 100 years would come back to life to lead the Jewish people.

 However Cyrus failed, not because he did not start the process. He did start the process, but he did not force the issue and was not strong enough in his efforts.  The failure of Cyrus led to the prophecy of Daniel 9:2 as the actual period of time for the 70 year exile. The return to Eretz Yisroel starts 19 years later when Darius the son of Achashveirosh and Esther allows the Jews to move back to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.  He was Jewish, but presumably, a Persian.  No open miracles.  Despite a Jewish homeland, most Jews elect to stay in Babylonia.

Fast forward to the late 1700s when the Gra’s and the Besht’s students go to Israel to start the process of settling Israel and bringing the Messiah, all through natural means.

Fast forward to 1881, 2 million Jews of white Russia are forced to leave their homeland, there were stirrings of a return to Israel, the Chovevi Zion society is formed, Herzl sees the Dreyfus trial and proposes the Jewish State.  My Zedi, the holy Pilivar – Kotzker Rebbe writes in his book, written in 1885+-, that the land of Israel should be purchased from the Ottoman-Turkish empire to resettle Jews. The Jews must create an agricultural society so that people will have industry and have a means of livelihood. He writes that there is no Mitzvah to settle in Israel to be supported by the diaspora through charity funds. He envisioned an agricultural society, back to the land.   He asks, why are tens of thousands of Jews going to America, when God promised Israel, the land flowing with milk and honey to the Jewish people.

 The Ottoman- Turkish empire refuses to sell the land in the 1880s, however, in 1917 we have the Balfour Declaration. Jews can go en masse to Israel. However, not enough go to Eretz Israel, and stay trapped in Europe. Hitler comes to power and wants to destroy the Jewish people. Unlike the plot of Haman, which was foiled, Hitler destroys European Jewry. The Jews are finally able to get to Israel and create a State of their own.


Binyomin Zev (Theodore) Herzl

Yahrzeit – 20 Tammuz 5664 (1904)

May 2, 1860 – July 3, 1904

This past Friday was the 110th Yahrzeit of Binyomin Zev – Theodore Herzl.    I did not know about Herzl’s Yahrzeit until Elykum Schwartz told me this past Shabbos.  I saw in Amos Elon’s book, Herzl, that in 1903 the Sefas Emes came out against Herzl and said the Messiah and settlement of Israel can only come from a miraculous event, not through natural means.  The Sefas Emes’s own cousin and the Vilna Goan did not agree with the Sefas Emes.  The Gra attempted to go to Israel and later sent his students to Israel over 100 years earlier in order to settle the land of Israel to bring the Messiah.  I would like to think that in the heavens the Sefas Emes taught Herzl Torah and that they are now learning together.

I just saw this picture in the July 3rd Jerusalem Post magazine.  This is the salon of Edmund James de Rothschild.

blog pic


As I look this picture, I see Theodore Herzl sitting at the table talking, cajoling, debating Edmund James de Rothschild about Herzl’s grand idea to buy the land of Israel from the Sultan of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.    Edmund James de Rothschild was the fifth wealthy Jewish individual Herzl approached to secure funding to buy Israel.  The previous four had not committed at all to Herzl.  Per Amos Elon each one of the five individuals, individually, had enough  money to buy the land of Israel from the Sultan.  Herzl thought that Edmund James de Rothschild would be most sympathetic because Rothschild, known as Hanadiv (“The Benefactor”) was engaged in philanthropy and settlement of Israel.  However, Herzl did not get the firm commitment from  Rothschild.  He got a lukewarm response to the effect bring me something of substance and I will consider it.  Herzl was forced to negotiate with the Sultan as a poker player.  Herzl had to make the Sultan believe that he (Herzl) had the financial backing to purchase the land of Israel, when he in no way had any money backing his grand idea to save world Jewry.

Tragic indeed.





Admor Rabbi Dovid Morgenstern

 1809 – 1873

 22 Tammuz 5648 – July 17, 1873

 Today is the 141st Yahrzeit of Admor Dovid Morgenstern

 Admor Dovid was reported to be the only surviving child of the Kotzker Rebbe and his first wife, Glcikel. Admor Dovid married Chaya Toiba, the daughter of Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Dishkis – Greenwald on the 8th day of Elul, 1827. It was a Friday. Admor Dovid was 18 years old. The Rebbe, Reb Bunim of Peshischa passed away on the 12th of Elul, four days later. Admor Dovid in his teenage years accompanied his father to the Rebbe, Reb Bunum. He absorbed the Torah and Holiness of Pershciha. My cousin compiled a beautiful book focusing on the life of Admor Dovid Morgenstern, titled Ahavas Dovid.

Admor Dovid is buried next to his father in the cemetry in Kotzk. 

Little is written about the life of Reb Dovid. The only Torah we have from Admor Dovid is from Yechiel Moshe Greenwald who lived approximately from 1830 to 1920. Yechiel Moshe Greenwald is the nephew of Chaya great-great-great-great grandmother. Yichiel Moshe Greenwald married a number of times and has a grandson of the same name living in Toronto.

 There are no first person accounts of Admor Dovid or stories about his life. Ahavas Dovid has some stories but no in depth analysis. The book, “The Rebbe of Kotzk and the 60 Warriors Surrounding Him, which was a Hebrew translation of a 1938 Yiddish book, also had few stories of Admor Dovid. Unfortunately, for the last two years, I have not been immersed in Kotzker Chassidus and I am not able to draw upon my understanding of Kotzk to paint a picture of Reb Dovid.   I cannot close my eyes and see him.   I am confident that once I re-immerse myself into the world of Kotzk, a clear picture will emerge. He was a Tzaddick who learned by his father and in his early youth by the Rebbe, Reb Bunim. My sense is that he did not inherit the fiery temperament of the Kotzker. He was, Haznah Lechas Eim Elokim – He Walked Humbly with God. His great holiness and Torah knowledge was hidden behind a veil of humbleness and simplicity.   Outsiders were not able to perceive his depth and that he was a true Talmud of the Kotzker; the fire of Hasham burned within him. The one great story in Ahavas Dovid, was when the Kotzker passed away in 1859, Admor Dovid did not want to become the Rebbe because of his humbleness and that the linage of Polish Rebbes was not inherited from father to son, it was a meritocracy. The Chidushei Harim was the next great person to lead Polish Jewry and Admor Dovid would have deferred to the Chidushei Harim.   Chenoch Henech M’Alexander urged Admor Dovid to take the reins of leadership in Kotzk and after meeting with Admor Dovid, they decided that they will go to the Chidushei Harim for advice and blessing. The Chidusshi Harim urged Admor Dovid to take over the leadership in Kotzk and for 14 years led his Chassidim. At the time of the Kotzker’s passing, Admor Dovid was 50 and the Chidushei Harim was 61.

 The story I also love is written in “Siach Serfei Kodesh”. One Shemnei Atzeres, the Kotzker sent a message to his son, Admor Dovid, to pray with a Minyan because the entire livelihood for a person is determined on Shimnei Atzeres. For anyone including a son to have the concern of the Holy Kotzker (or any great leader) for him fills me with a sense of love.

The following comment is from my brother, Pesach:

 There was a small shul in Chicago on Independence Blvd just north of Roosevelt Road called Beis David.  The Rav was Rabbi Shloma Morgenstern.  We called him The Rebbi.  I was a boy of 7 or 8 years old, and I knew than that Reb David was the son of the Kotzker Rebbi.  My mother spoke highly of Reb Shloma, as being a Chacom.




Shabbos Parshas Naso – May 31, 2014

Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger

Bais Netziv

 File:Naftali Tzvi Iehuda Berlin (ha-Natziv) 1a.jpg

I was at Buckingham Pavilion a week ago and I was Zocah to meet Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger, Unfortunately he is there for recuperation.

 I decided to daven by Buckingham Pavilion and speak about Rabbi Gettinger.  I never met him before but I consider him my Rebbe.  I have been inspired by his two sons, Rabbi Yisroel Gettinger, Rabbi at Bene Torah in Indianapolis; Rabbi Refael Gettinger, Rosh Yeshiva in Lakewood, NJ; and his son-in-law, Dr. Julius Ungar, who lives in Chicago.   When I arrived at Buckingham Pavilion I received a pleasant surprise.  Rabbi Refael Gettinger of Lakewood was visiting his father and I was able to introduce myself as the guy from Chicago.

 Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger is married to a descendant of the Netziv, through the Netziv’s son-in-law, Rabbi Refael Shapiro

 When Rabbi Gettinger was engaged to his wife, Rochel Riff, the daughter of Rabbi Naftoli Riff of Camden, NJ, it was not fitting for someone to marry into the Netziv’s family unless that person was a Torah scholar.   Rabbi Meyer Bar Ilan (Berlin) the son of the Netziv and head of Mizrahi in Israel was the family representative to test Rabbi Gettinger. Rabbi Gettinger passed with distinction. I was fortunate to meet and hear Torah from Rabbi Meyer Bar Ilan’s grandson, named after his grandfather.

 In 1937 Rabbi Meyer Bar Ilan send a greeting to the Agudah convention in Europe, which was read at the convention. In his greeting, Rabbi Meyer Bar Ilan apologized for not being able to attend, and said that we should work on projects on behalf of the Jewish people together. Beautiful. Toras Netziv.

 The Gabbai of the Buckingham Pavilion Synagogue gave me permission to speak after prayer services.    The following is my speech.

 Zeh Hayon Nagila V’Nismach Bo – I rejoice this day

 This morning I was learning Daf Yomi and did not understand how Rashi explained a Passuk. I decided to look at the Torah Temima, a nephew of the Netziv, and the Torah Temima helped clarify Rashi for me. Without Rashi, the Gemora would have been difficult to comprehend.   Two weeks earlier I was at Boca Raton Synagogue and sat in Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda’s class. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, also a nephew of the Netziv, said a number of times that if only he realized how great Rashi was years ago, he would have focused more on Rashi.

 (Update – I was in Boca four weeks later and found out that Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda fell and needs a Refuah Shlema. I miss him greatly.)

 I have now met the father of three teachers of Torah who have given their time to me.  Additionally, Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger is married to the great grand-daughter of the famed Netziv – Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin. I have written about the greatness of the Netziv elsewhere in my blog.

 Dr. Julius Ungar – I attend his classes on Chassidic thought and on Jewish history.  They are excellent.  I consider anything I write on my blog a success when Dr. Ungar e-mails me that he likes what I wrote. 

 Rabbi Yisroel Gettinger – I davened in his Shul for a number of years when I visited my daughter in Indianapolis.  Rabbi Yisroel Gettinger has the phenomenal ability to express Torah thoughts and ideas succinctly.  He translates Hebrew in a precise manner.  His Koach Hasbara (ability to articulate Torah) is unparalleled.

 Rabbi Refael Gettinger – About I year ago, I needed an explanation on a Passuk that had three Yisiv P’siks and I ended up calling Rabbi Refael Gettinger.  He is a busy Rosh Yeshiva and he gave me over an hour of his time.  We spoke Torah and about the house of the Netziv. 

 May Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda have a Refuah Shlema and may Hashem grant them the ability to teach Torah. I look forward to hearing their Torah.