Parshas Eikev – Kotzk – Vorka

Parshas Eikev

22 AV 5776 – August 27, 2016

Pesach

Chapter 8, Verse 14: “Vram Levavcha” –  “and your heart grow s haughty”

Kotzk and Vorka

Pesach came in for Shabbos to be with my mother. It is always great seeing him. Friday night we stayed up to 11:30 PM talking about Bubby and Zedi Sklar.  Bubbi and Zedi Sklar’s trip to Israel in 1962, Pesach’s trip to Israel in 1960 to learn in Yeshiva.  Pesach got Bubby and Zedi a room at the hotel Tzfania, not exactly a 5 star hotel, but served its purpose.  Zedi wanted to go to Meron on Lag Ba’omer, however knew that Bubbi would not let him go.  Zedi made up with Pesach for Pesach to go to Zedi’s hotel room at 2:00 AM, lightly knock on the door, and Zedi  would come out.   They hopped on a bus to Meron.  Imagine, Zedi sneaking out at 2:00 in the morning.  What would Bubby  think when she woke up and Zedi would be gone all day.  For Zedi it was an Avodas Hakodash and not a tourist trip.  Pesach also with detail talked about his trip from Chicago to Israel on  a two week boat trip aboard the SS Zion, a Zim Lines passenger ship;  and back on a Greek passenger line. As only Pesach can tell a story, we laughed, reminisced, and laughed.

Shabbos morning was a normal Shabbos. Went home to eat and then went to Mayer’s  house to have Cholent for the third time.

At Sholosh Suedas Pesach, Mayer, my mother, and myself washed and had gefilte fish, Matzah, and salad.   I spoke the following words of Torah:

Dvorim Chapter 8, Verse 14 says:

יד: וְרָם לְבָבֶךָ וְשָׁכַחְתָּ אֶת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים:

14:  and your heart grows haughty, and you forget the Lord, your God, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,

The simple explanation is that you will become arrogant, forget God, you will go astray and worship idols. The Ibn Ezra explains it differently.  You will be come arrogant, you will forget that once you were slaves, forget that once you were poverty stricken, and forget that God provided for you when you were down.  The Ibn Ezra is saying that you will not go astray, you will not worship idols, rather you will remain Orthodox and keep Gods commandments, but your heart will turn to stone, you will not have empathy for your fellow Jews.  This will lead to demeaning other Orthodox Jews, hatred for the sake of hatred, all the while , going to Shul three times a day, even learning Torah, and wearing a big Yarmulke.  How else do you explain many of the disagreements in Israel.  It almost seems that it todays world certain segments of Klal Yisroel forgot there was a Holocaust.

Today is Shabbos Mvorchim.  Chazzan Silber has a beautiful Nusach for the Yehi Ratzon.  I was looking up the English translation and saw that Artscroll explained “Chaverim Kol Yisroel” as ” All Israel becoming Comrades”.   I decied to look further into the translation of “Chaverim Kol Yisroel”.  A second translation not found in any of the English prayer books is that we are joined together like two pieces of metal are soldered together so they appear as one piece but are actually two pieces.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks translates these words as “so that all Israel may be united in friendship.”  However, the Birnbaum Siddur explained it that all Jews are “knitted together”.  It is interesting that the same words are translated differently, and each while similar have different connotations, which reflect Haskafah, and time of history.  Refer to end of this post to explains the differences in interpretation.

Philip Birnbaum is the highest level, the knitting together, being intertwined.  This  can be explained best by the following story of the Kotzker and his dear friend, Reb Yitzchok of Vorka.  I had heavenly help in finding this story to understand Birnbaum.

At 3:00 PM I went to take a nap and looked for something to read. I found in my closet three pages from a publication called Hapardas, dated January 1968.  Hapardes was a publication for the Torah world by Rabbi Simcha Elberg, first published in Warsaw, then Chicago, and in the later years of his life from Boro Park.  1968 was his 42nd year of publication.  On page 36 Rabbi Elberg had a book review of a new Sefer published by Rabbi Kalman Eliezer Frankel, a Rabbi in Tel Aviv.  The new book’s title was; In the Tents of the Righteous – the branch of the house of Vorka – Sakranovitz.

I will translate a large part of the book review as follows:

The Seraf of Kotzk did not want many Chassidim among the masses; however, Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka drew the love of the masses to himself. Just like Rabbi Levi Yitzchok TZL of Berdichiv was in his generation (1740 – 1810), so was Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka in his generation, he looked upon the Jewish people  with the mindset  of “ He (God) does not look at evil in Jacob and has seen no perversity in Israel. (Numbers 23:21).”    These two great people came out of the Bais Midrash of the Rebbi, Reb Bunim TZL, who both illuminated the heavens of Poland, two completely different viewpoints in Chassidus and nonetheless a great love  and an everlasting love existing between the two great and holy individuals

On page 322 in the book,”B’Ohali Tzaddikkim” the reader will find an amazing story from the author. It is worthwhile to recount the story here.

The Rebbi, Reb Yitzchok Vorka in his generation was like the Berdichiver in his generation, having great compassion, a lover of the Jewish people, a trusted servant for his people, he found merit even on the lowest of the lowest Jewish person.

After the death of the Rebbi, Reb Bunim, Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka crowned the son of Reb Bunim, Rabbi Avrohom Moshe as the leader of the holy congregation, which he led for only two years. And after the death of Reb Avrohom Moshe, Reb Yitzchok of Vorka accepted the leadership of the congregation.

Even though the mindset, the essence, and entire being of Rabbi Yitzchok Vorka was totally  different than  Reb Menachem  Mendel of Kotzk; as the Kotzker  demanded only perfection, without blemish,  Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka saw the light that shines in each Jewish person.  Despite this they were strongly and faithfully attached

After the death of Rabbi Yitzhok Vorka on the last day of Pesach (1848), the Vorka’s son and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kalish, goes to Kotzk.  The Kotzker asks have you seen your father in the next world?  The son answers no.  The Kotzker responds – I saw him. In the Kotzker sharpness, the Kotzker relates the following story. “I was in the heavenly world, and I searched and asked the heavenly angels: Tell me, where can our Reb Yitzhok’l be found?  The angels answered, he is in a higher level, that even we are not allowed to enter. I then searched in the level of the Baal Shem Tov and I was told that Reb Yitzchok was in a higher level. I went to the level of the Achronim, of the Bais Yosef and Remah, and also there I could not find my friend. I traveled and entered the level of the Reshonim and could not find him.  I then went up to the level of they holy Amoreim and asked them, tell me, I am searching for Yizhok’l my friend, where is he and where can he be found.   They responded he was here, but now he can be found on the river’s edge which is closeby. I ran with all my might, I passed the field of the “Chakal Tapuchin” (mentioned in the Zohar of the next world), and there I saw a flowing river, and at its edge, your father Reb Yitzchok’l was leaning on his staff and looking into the clear and pure waters of the river. I grabbed his coat and asked, Yitzchok’l my faithful friend, what are you doing here? He answered me do you see this river? These are the tears of the Jews that were shed over the generations and from the tears a river was formed that flows into the upper heavens. I am standing by this river and I am not able to move away.

Rabbi Frankel adds that this is how the Kotzker described to the son of the Vorker  who his father was and his father’s  greatness. No other leader in that generation merited to be described by the great Kotzker, as the true lover of the Jewish people, Rabbi Yitzchok of Kalish, the first Admor of Vorka, TZL.   The story is told by Rabbi Naftoli Citron – youtube, The Kotzker Rebbe, #3 and #4.

This is how Philip Birnbaum translates “Chaverim Kol Yisoel” “knitted together” as the Kotzker and Vorka Rebbes. And this is the model for the Jewish people.

The four interpretations of Chaverim Kol Yisroel are:         1) Artscroll – All Israel are Comrades.

2) All Israel are connected –pieces joined together.

3) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – so that all Israel my be united in friendship.

4) Birnbaum Siddur – All Israel is “knitted together”.

Each interpretation I believe depends on someone’s outlook towards life, religion, time of history, and relationships.   They are probably all true at times during history.

Artscroll’s translation sounded strange to me. The word Comrades brings up negative images.  Loyal communists were called Comrades.  This implies that Klal Yisroel must all be the same, think the same, and look the same.   Comrades is an exclusionary term, anyone different is not part of us.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld did tell me that in Israel the word Chaverim is used in the Kibbutzim and it means comrades.

The second explanation is like the Satmer. Klal Yisroel is separate parts joined together as in a menorah whose branches are soldered to the base.   This is how the Satmer would translate the word.  The Satmer in his Hagadah says on Yachatz (we break the middle matzah) – sometimes our community has to break off from the rest of Israel.  We must split off.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is how most people would interpret the words; however, Birnbaum is on a deeper level. We are bound to one another.  This is more the viewpoint of the Besht, the Kotzker, the Lubavitcher, Menachem Begin, and others.

 

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TISHA B’AV 2016

Tisha B’Av 2016 – August 14, 2016

Parshas Devorim

 Rabbi Tzvi Yechezkel Michelson

1856 – August 25, 1942 (12 Elul 5702)

Dr. Hillel Zeidman – Warsaw Ghetto Diaries

Chanukas Hatorah

Torah of Rabbi Heschel M ‘Lublin and Krakow

Rov of Lublin and then Krakow

1600 – 1663 (20 Tishrei – October 21)

Kli Yakor on Devorim, Chapter 1, verse 7.

 Thursday night, August 11, 2016,  davened at Anshei Sholem.  After Maariv I took a long walk and listened to Rabbi Sholem Rosner, YU.org.  on Parshas Devorim.   Rabbi Rosner told over a Torah thought found in the Chanukas Hatorah from Rabbi Heschel.    This is the first time I have heard a speaker quote from the Chanukas Hatorah.  I have the book, probably one of handful of people who know of the Sefer.  The Chanukas Hatorah came out in 1900 and was published by Rabbi Chanoch Henock Arison from the city of Zgierz. Rabbi Heschel who lived in the 1600s did not publish a book of his Torah on Chumash, rather his Torah was written down by  other.   Rabbi Chanoch Henoch gathered together the Torah of Rabbi Heschel and published it in the book titled, Chanukas Hatorah.  The back of the book contains a biography of the life of Rabbi Heschel.

The book has Haskomos – approbations from three of the descendants of Rabbi Heschel. One of them was from Rabbi Tzvi Yechezkel Michelson,  HYD.  http://hevratpinto.org/tzadikim_eng/180_rabbi_tzvi_yechezkel_michelson.html

If you open up any  Sefer published in Poland from 1900 to 1939, you probably will find a Haskoma from Rabbi Michelson.  In the back of the Sefer, Atares Tzvi,  by my great-great grandfather,  there is a picture of a meeting of the Warsaw Community Council.  My grandfather was on the council and is in the picture.   I showed the picture to Henry Morgan and he said, here is my uncle, Rabbi Tzvi Yechezkel Michelson.  I kept running across Rabbi Tzvi Yechezkel Michelson and  always wondered what happened to him.  A while back, the book mobile from Lakewood came to Chicago to sell Seforim.  For $2.00 I picked up the book, Warsaw Ghetto Diaries written by  Dr. Hillel Zeidman.  In it Dr. Zeidman who was a historian in the Warsaw Ghetto,  chronicled the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the end of Polish Jewry in 1942 – 1943.  He followed the English calendar.  My Hebrew is bad and it was hard for me to read the book so I set it aside.  My Hebrew slowly improved and a few years later I decided to read from the diary on each day the entry of that day.   I read the entry of August 25, page 60.  The entry is titled, “The leaders of the Ghetto in the furnace of the Selection.”

Page 61 – “Two elder Rabbis, Rav Tzvi Yechezkel Michelson, the well known author, the elder of the Warsaw Rabbis, was 86 years old and Rav Noah Rogozinski went down with us.  We thought – even with everything they (the Nazi’s) did, they will not kill these elder Rabbis.

I stood with the people who were waiting for the judgment (of the selection by the Nazi’s. Those that went to the right lived and those to the left were sent to Treblinka and death). The faces of the exhausted people were pale.    I was not sure if I would find a merit to be counted with those that would be saved.  I saw how Professor Balaban was treated.  He is a well known person, they (the Nazi’s) considered his fate and decided to keep in alive.  Doctor Sapir, Dr. Stein, Orlean, Fredonson were accompanied by a Kapo who would walk with these men and speak in their defense (to the officers deciding their fate).  They went to the right (to live another day).  But regarding the two Rabbis, Michaelson and Rogozinski, no words would save them.  I saw them standing with those that were to go to the Umschlag (the train station that took the Jews to their death in Treblinka).  Rabbi Michelson stood before the soldiers with his head held high and his body straight, he appeared calm, but in truth he was lost in his thoughts.  The Rav of Warsaw was 86 years old, for many years was the Rav of Plonsk, is the author of 43 books, besides what he had in manuscripts – stood without hope, alone, abandoned within his congregation, destined for death, waiting to be slaughtered.  Next to him was the Rav from Lita, a regal person, Rogozinski.  Their lot has been decreed.”

I cry for these. My Zedi,  Rabbi Avrohom Meir Morgenstern, who I was named for  and my  Bubby were killed in Treblinka.  Professor Michael  Savage on his radio program read a first person account what is like for the Jews when the train door opened until they were marched to their death  in the gas chambers, roughly 30 minutes later.  Al Eleh Anei Bochiya – on these I cry.

My friend Leon asked me why was it that no words would spare the two Rabbis. The reason  I believe is that the Nazi’s realized that the backbone of the Jewish people are its Rabbis, its Torah Scholars and felt that these leaders had to be killed before anyone else.

On Shabbos I told over the Torah thought of the Chanukas Hatorah. I also told over a beautiful  Kli Yakor and Ibn Ezra on Chapter 1, Verse  7:

7Turn and journey, and come to the mountain of the Amorites and to all its neighboring places, in the plain, on the mountain, and in the lowland, and in the south and by the seashore, the land of the Canaanites, and the Lebanon, until the great river, the Euphrates River. זפְּנוּ | וּסְעוּ לָכֶם וּבֹאוּ הַר הָאֱמֹרִי וְאֶל כָּל שְׁכֵנָיו בָּעֲרָבָה בָהָר וּבַשְּׁפֵלָה וּבַנֶּגֶב וּבְחוֹף הַיָּם אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַלְּבָנוֹן עַד הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר פְּרָת:

Once you see the Kli Yakor, then you will understand the reason for the Yisiv P’sik after the first word in the verse.

Parshas Pinchos 2016

24 Tammuz – July 31, 2016

During this past week, there were two Yahrzeits. On 20 Tammuz was the 122th Yahrzeit of Benyamin Tzvi Herzl. In the 22 Tammuz was the 143th Yahrzeit of My great-great-great- grandfather Admor Dovid Morgenstern.

Pesach Frank
Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I offer a Torah thought from Rabbi Menachem Ben Zion Sacks, the son-in-law of Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank. His book on his Torah thoughts is Menachem Tzion on the Torah. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (1873–1960) (Hebrew: הרב צבי פסח פרנק) was a renowned halachic scholar and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem for several decades. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank in his own way was a Zionist. 

 

Menachem Ben Zion Sacks

Hebrew: מנחם בנציון זקס

                    Also Known As: 

“Ben-Tzion”

Birthdate:

July 15, 1896

Birthplace:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel

Death:

Died February 7, 1987 in Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States

Place of Burial:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel

Rabbi Sacks on Parsha Pinchos

Numbers, Verse 23:7 in this week’s Sedra tells about the daughters of Zelophechad coming to Moshe and saying, “Our father died in the desert, but he was not in the assembly that banded together against the Lord in Korach’s assembly, bet he died for his own sin, and he had no sons.” The Talmud in Shabbos, Daf 96 says, Rabbi Akiva identifies Zelophechad as the person who chopped wood on the Sabbath. Rabbi Yehuda the son of Besara said, “Akiva, you will have to answer for your comments, if you are correct, the Torah did not want to reveal Zelophechad’s sin and you revealed it, and if your are incorrect, you said a falsehood about this righteous man. Rather, he was one of the “Mapelim” Numbers 14:, Verse 44. The Mapelim where those who after the sin of the spies went to the top of the mountain and fight their way into Israel. Moshe told them in Numbers 14, Verse 42. “Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, (so that) you will not get slaughtered by your enemies.”

Rabbi Sacks asks: Rabbi Yehuda Ben Besara did the same thing as Rabbi Akiva, as the Mapelim transgressed the word of God. Additionally, Rabbi Yehuda Ben Besara calls Zelophechad a Tzaddik, when he did die of a sin.

Rabbi Sacks answers: The daughters of Zelophechad told Moshe in defense and redeeming their father that he did not die in rebellions against God but “Because he died of his own sin”. From this it seems that there is no problem to reveal that Zelophechad was one of the Mapelim, because of their great love for Israel, that the Mapelim were ready to die for Israel, alleviates the blemish that is associated with the Mapelim. (This is why Rabbi Yehuda Ben Besara says he was a Tzaddik.)

Rabbi Sacks continues: from this answer of Rabbi Yehuda Ben Besara, we can extend it to the Aliyah to Israel from 1881 and forward, which contained great sacrifice to settle Israel; this Mesiras Nefash, protects from the blemish of many of the secular Zionists, the merit of wanting to settle the land tilts the scales of merit in favor of these modern day Mapelim. God should open up their eyes to return to good.

This thought of Rabbi Sacks mirrors the thoughts of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Kook, Admor Chaim Yisroel M’Pilov the Shalom Yerushalim and the successor and son of Admor Dovid Morgenstern.

A week earlier I told a Rosh Kollel from Israel my Torah thought on Bechukosi that dedication to Torah study among the Jewish people can bring peace and Achdus to Israel. I said that in Jewish thought and Halacha people cannot agree; however in dedication to Torah study there can be Achdus. I said that each Torah giant should have to give a class or classes in a Yeshiva or college not in their orbit. Meaning, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, should give a Shiur in Har Etzion, The Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion should give a Shiur in Ponevich. The Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevich should give a Shiur in Bar Elon University. Can you imagine the Achdus that would be archived over a 20 year period.

He argued with me and said I am wrong. Why should the head of Mir, Rabbi Finkl give a Shiur in Har Etzion. He basically said that the people in Har Etzion are wrong and no different than Apikorsim (He did not use this word but this is what he meant.). This was very depressing to me. What is wrong with teaching Torah. I think that I almost had my neighbor, a Telzer agreeing with me. I told the Rosh Kollel that he doesn’t get it, he does not understand the truth and power of Torah.

In this period of mourning for the Jewish nation and the merit of our holy fathers, may Klal Yisroel come together in Torah, in common goals, even though in ideologically or Halahca we disagree. We should realize that we will not and should not agree in Halacha or Hashkafa. May our Achdus in Torah bring us to recognize the humanity of fellow Jews and the world.