May 28, 2016 – 20 Iyar 5776

Friday Night:

Had a tough week and it was great to have Shabbos. Chani came in from Stern College for the summer. My anniversary is Memorial Day and this is our 36th wedding anniversary.

Serka made a great meal. I gave Serka a tennis bracelet for our anniversary. Thanks to EC for getting me the bracelet.

Shabbos Morning:

Woke up at 7:15 AM and studied the Torah portion. Naftoli came over at 9:30 for me to take him to Shul. Got to Shul at 10:10 AM. Regular Davening. Naftoli and my mother ate over along with Joel Bulgatz. My mother was great. We read my post from three years ago, when I went to visit Rabbi Jonathan Gross and family in Omaha, Nebraska.

Naftoli Glenner Customs in Shul:

Opened the Aron with strength.

When I called him up for an Aliyah, I walked towards the front of the Shul, away from Naftoli and with my back to him. I always do this, and he always knows that he is being called up.

Naftoli has a new custom that he says the Blessings when called up to the Torah in a whisper. All of us around the Bimah and people standing near the Bimah all bent ourselves towards Naftoli to hear his blessing and we all shouted Amen. The scene was reminiscent of an EF Hutton commercial years ago. The commercial shows an EF Hutton broker talking very softly and everyone straining to listen and the tagline is, whenever EF Hutton talks, everyone listens.

He banged the Bimah when we started Musaf.

The Shul has a chart of the Torah Blessings with Ashkenasik on one side and Sephardic on the other side. Naftoli kept turning the chart over, briefly studying each side. Naftoli was trying to figure out what was the difference between the two sides.

He wears his hat backwards with the pinches in the back. He is starting a new fashion trend.

Naftoli is probably the most recognized non-public Jew in the world. If he were to walk in Jerusalem, many people would come over to him because of his semi-celebrity status.


My Torah from this week:

Behar Chapter 25, Verses 18-30:

You shall perform My statutes, keep My ordinances and perform them then you will live on the land securely. יחוַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וִישַׁבְתֶּם עַל הָאָרֶץ לָבֶטַח:
Then you will live on the land securely: because it is through the transgression of [the laws of] Shemittah that the Israelites are exiled [from their land], as the verse says, “Then, the land will appease its Sabbaths. [All the days of desolation while you are in the land of your enemies -] the land will rest and appease its Sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34). And the seventy years of the Babylonian exile [when the land remained forcibly at rest], corresponded to the seventy years of Shemittah not observed by Israel, [and thus came to rectify and “appease” them]. [see Rashi Lev. 26:25 where the calculation is explained; Shab. 33a; and see II Chron. 36:21] וישבתם על הארץ לבטח: שבעון שמטה ישראל גולים, שנאמר (ויקרא כו לד) אז תרצה הארץ את שבתותיה והרצת את שבתותיה, ושבעים שנה של גלות בבל, כנגד שבעים שמטות שבטלו היו:
19And the land will then yield its fruit and you will eat to satiety, and live upon it securely. יט וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ פִּרְיָהּ וַאֲכַלְתֶּם לָשׂבַע וִישַׁבְתֶּם לָבֶטַח עָלֶיהָ:
And the land will then yield [its fruit…and you will…] live upon it securely: i.e., you will have no worry about a year of drought. ונתנה הארץ וגווישבתם לבטח עליה: שלא תדאגו משנת בצורת:
and you will eat to satiety: There will be a blessing in it even inside your innards. ואכלתם לשבע: אף בתוך המעים תהא בו ברכה:
20And if you should say, “What will we eat in the seventh year? We will not sow, and we will not gather in our produce!” כוְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת הֵן לֹא נִזְרָע וְלֹא נֶאֱסֹף אֶת תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ:


for three years: for part of the sixth year from Nissan [when the crop is reaped] until Rosh Hashanah, for the [entire] seventh [Shemittah] year, and for the eighth [year, namely,] for they will sow [a new crop] in Marcheshvan of the eighth year and reap [this new crop] in Nissan [while still eating of the sixth year’s crop]. לשלש השנים: למקצת הששית מניסן ועד ראש השנה, ולשביעית ולשמינית, שיזרעו בשמינית במרחשון ויקצרו בניסן:

Rashi on Verse 18 says that keeping Shmittah will insure that the Jews are able to live in Israel and conversely, transgressing Shmittah leads to exile. It seems depressing that for 490 years the Jews did not keep Shmittah. This is from the times of Shaul until the destruction of the first temple. My guess is that after the split of the Jewish people after Shlomo Hamelech’s death, you have the Northern Kingdom of 10 tribes and the Southern Kingdom of 2 tribes . The Northern Kingdom must have stopped keeping Shmittah.

Verse 19:

Let us read Verse 19 with Rashi and understand how Rashi explains the verse.

And the land will then yield its fruit and you will eat to satiety, even if you eat a little portion, there will be a blessing and you will be satisfied with eating just a little (Just like the Mun, which was an Omer for everyone), and as a result of having to only eat little portions to feel satiated, you will live securely in the land of Israel, enough crops will be stored that even in a year of drought you will have food and feel secure. The crops of previous years will be able to cover times of drought. Verse 20 go on to say that if one questions, how will we eat during the Shmittah year, God says, don’t worry, I will send a blessing so that the crop of the sixth year will be a bumper crop. Rashi seems to believe the Verse 20 is an inquiry and not a challenge.

The Sforno (1475-1550) offers a different explanation.

Verse 19 according to Sforno would be read as follows:

And the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat a little and be satisfied, so that during the Shmittah year when you do not plant, you will be secure, and not have to rely on purchases or charity from other countries to survive during Shmittah. Verse 20 is a challenge and is referring to people of lesser faith who will question God and ask how we will survive. To these people God answers that in year six you will have a bumper crop.

The Sefer Siach Sarfei Kodesh brings the following Vort on Verse 20:

Harav Austrover who heard from the Chidusshei Harim who said in the name of Reb Zuisha to explain verse 20. If the Jews did not ask, what we will eat in the seventh year, there would be plenty of produce, and satiety in the seventh year. Even without any commandment from God to bless the land to produce extra food, there will be plenty of food. However, if people ask, what will we eat? God must “command my blessing etc. The Chedusshei Harim concluded that the world says that Reb Zusha was not a Torah Scholar. But in truth this is not true, we see from this Torah Vort that he was a Goan – a Torah Scholar.

Why did this prove that Reb Zusha was a Torah scholar. On the surface, this is Drush, anyone can say it. However, the RIM is saying that Reb Zusha was not saying Drush but was explaining the words of the Chumash like the Sforno. This is why the RIM said Reb Zusha was a Torah scholar.

What difference does in make which type of blessing.  To answer this I have to thank Dr. Jerry Noble.

Dr. Jerry Noble gave me a set of Malbim (1809 – 1879) that was owned by my wife’s grandfather, Rabbi Leibish Noble TZL, 1895-1965+-. The Malbim is old and yellowed but it’s Torah is fresh, vibrant, and relevant. I opened the holy Malbim that Rabbi Leibush Noble touched.  The Malbim on  Verse 20 explains the two types of blessings; eating a little and being satisfied,and bumper crops.  Having a normal crop and having it last longer because of the blessing allows for a normal crop without the extra work, less worry of spoilage, easier to safeguard, and not having your enemies see you are very prosperous.   However, the second blessing of bumper crops brings worry and problems along with the extra work.  Http//

Reb Leibish Noble

1916: Eitz Chaim hires a second teacher, Reb Leibish Noble. The school expands to two classes and has thirty students. Classes were held for four hours each day after a regular public school day, on Sundays, and during the summer





Meir Simcha of Dvinsk

I also opened up the Meschech Chochma, Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, 1843-1926, and he says a beautiful explanation on Verse 20, see the attachment.


See the pages from the Gutnick Bible.





Rabbi Meir Lebush ben Yehiel Michal, “the Malbim”


Gutnick – Lubavitch Bible


Meshech Chochma

Siach Sarfei Kodesh – Reb Zusha – RIM


Shabbos Parshas Shimini

April 2, 2016 – 23 Adar 2

Karen came in to be with our mother.  Ate Friday night at the Glenners.  Right before Shabbos listened to 50% of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg’s Shiur on this week’s Torah portion.  He led me to the first  Orach Chaim Hakodesh (OCH).

Rabbi Goldberg explained the following Rashi beautifully:  The first Verse in Shimini says:

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי קָרָא משֶׁה לְאַהֲרֹן וּלְבָנָיו וּלְזִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

And it was on the eight day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.

Rashi explains that Moses called the elder of Israel, “to inform them that is was by the express command of God that that Aaron was  becoming the High Priest, so that they should not say that he entered of his own accord.” (Medresh Tanchumah)

Rabbi Goldberg explains that Rashi is telling us that process is very important.  When you make a major decision or an appointment, you must be  cognizant of the politics of the situation, the personalities, and the effects of what you are doing.  If transparency is needed, be transparent, play your politics correctly.

Ba’al Haturim (BHT) on Verse 1:

Rabbi Goldberg read and linked the BHT  to the Orach Chaim Hakodash.  I will attempt to explain both.

The BHT said on the first Verse.  “Moshe said, “because I resisted for seven days by the burning bush (when God told Moshe to be the leader and take the Jews out of Egypt) , I only merited to serve as High Priest for seven days.”  The attribution listed in the Miikros Gedolus is the Medresh Rabbah 11:6. The Artscroll attempts to explain the BHT using the Medresh.    While the Medresh is the source of the idea of the BHT, the BHT is taking the idea in a new direction.   Moshe is thinking to himself, on why he (Moshe)  only merited to  be the  High Priest for 7 days.  It is one of regret.  The BHT is following the same line of reasoning as the Orach Chaim Hakodesh (OCH).

Orach Chaim Hakodesh (OCH):

The OCH  brings the Talmud in Megillah, 10b.  The Talmud in Megilah 10b says that the first word on Shimini – V’Yehi – translated as “ and it was” – is a word used to reference or foreshadow  distress, agony, a bad situation, pain.   It says “And it was in the days of Achashverosh”    The Jews were in distress during the days of Achashverosh.   The Talmud says the V’Yehi of this weeks portion, foreshadows the deaths of Nadav and Avihu.   The OCH goes on and gives a Torah lecture on the Talmud in Megillah.

The OCH  offers a second explanation  of the distress reference in the word V’Yehi.

The OCH says:

  “Perhaps the distress is Moshe’s distress, which is mentioned in the verse, (Moshe’s distress is that ) he saw  the greatness and the greatness and the greatness of Aaron’s  sons .”

Moshe saw that Aaron’s appointment to the High Priesthood was a legacy for his children.  Aaron’s children will eternally be High Priests.  Moshe’s children would not inherit Moshe’s position and this is what distressed him.  In fact Moshe’s own grandson was a priest for idols.

The OCH continues:

 Let us learn what the pain of jealousy even from good, what can happen, from the story of the children of Shimon Hatzadik, (brought down in Menachos 109b), and changes what was supposed to happen, that was to be his and his children afterwards.

The Talmud in Menachos details the tragic consequences even when Shimon Hatzadik , who was the High Priest for first 40 years of the Second Temple and was a very holy man, instructs his kids as to who is succeed him, jealousy ensued, and not only did the family of Shimon Hatzadik lose the legacy of High priesthood, there was a calamity of for the Jews people.

The OCH continues:

Because Moshe resisted being the messenger of God in Egypt, God got angry (at Moshe) on that day and (Moshe) lost the priesthood, so when it came the time that the priesthood would go into effect, Moshe was pained that he lost the glory of eternal priesthood, even though Moshe was outstanding in righteousness and humility, every  heart has feelings (we are all human) , especially with something  so valuable and glorious,  perhaps the distress of Moshe  is referenced in Numbers 7:1, which describes  the dedication and  raising of the Mishkan also on this same day of this Parsha,  and uses the same word, V’Yehi.”  (This way the V’Yehi of Shimini is  the distress of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and Numbers the distress of Moshe).

Lest you think that the story of Shimon Hatzadik does not happen today, that Shimon Hatzadik’s son, Chonyav was evil, and this would not happen today. Look what is happening today at outstanding Torah institutions that were started by holy men.   Look at Ponevich, Telz, Satmer, Bobov, and others.  The people who built up these organizations were holy men, yet their heirs fight.  Nothing destructive that we see has happened, however, there has been a Chilul Hashem.  As far as Telz, the Sortzkins left Telshe.   The Sorotzkins were not part of the fight because the Patriarch of the family,  Reb Zalman Sorotzkin, was a big  Zionist.  Since he was a Zionist, he felt responsibility  for Klal Yisroel and this has seeped into the psyche of his descendants.



December 17 – December 20, 2015


Tuesday- December 15, 2015

Decided to go to LA and clean out my father’s last storage unit.  The storage unit location is being sold and everything had to out by 12/31/2015. My father died in 2002 and he had three store units.  We cleaned out two of them following his passing in 2002.  We kept delaying and now we were up against a hard deadline.

Thursday- December 17, 2015

3:00 PM   – I try to get my boarding pass for my 8:00 PM flight.  I discover that I did not book the flight and was in a panic.  I found a 5:50 PM flight for $168.00 (original flight cost was $268).  I book the flight, go home, pack, and make the 5:50 PM flight.

10:30 PM – Arrive at Madeline and Martin’s condo in Westwood. Madeline is a first cousin of my wife.  It had been over 5 years since I was in LA, I was home and hugged them.

Friday – December 18, 2015

7:00 AM – Morning prayers at the Westwood Village Synagogue.  Reacquainted myself with Rabbi Abner Weiss, one of my teachers.

8:00 AM – Breakfast served by Madeline

9:00 AM – Arrive at my father’s storage unit, #449 on Lexington, east of LaBria

I open the unit and it is full of boxes, files, suitcases, luggage metal trunks, supplies, and everything else. I do not know what to do. I am overwhelmed as there is quite a bit to look at and did not want to miss anything. I am  also fearful of losing my sense of my father. I call my sister, Lisa. She has the same feeling as me.  My brother-in-law would have mocked me and would  have saidthrow it all out.

I panic and decide to move the stuff “as-is” to another storage unit four blocks away. I make three trips with a loaded mini-van. As the day went on I asked myself, what am I doing, it’s all junk and should be bulldozed. As the day wore on, I trashed about 25%of the unit and filled up the trash bin provided on the premises.

I find bank statements from the 1980’s; a copy of his lawsuit against Ma Parker, a deli he purchased in the 1970s on Fairfax; books; office supplies; rental car receipts. I found letters he sent to the IRS about malfeasance by people, and his tax returns. Nothing of value. I found luggage, metal suitcases that he shipped via rail in the early 1970s when he moved to LA. There were shirts, socks, blankets, his boxer shorts, uniforms from when he owned a Baskin- Robbins ice cream parlor. My most revolting discovery was a box of his undershirts. He wore undershirts, not T’s. I remember his wearing them when I was a kid and I was utterly revolted by them. I chastise the Schwartz boys because they wear these disgusting undershirts.

Friday Night – December 18, 2015 – Parshas V’igash

4:00 PM – Leave for Shul

Rabbi Abner Weiss spoke after Davening. He asked why is Yosef, the only son of Jacob, referred to as Yosef HaZaddik (Joseph the righteous one). For nine years Yosef delayed informing his father that he was still alive and that he was the Viceroy in Egypt. It is very cruel. Yosef had dreams and made sure to let his brothers know about it.

Rabbi Weiss said that the word Tzadik means, “Tzad Dak” – “the side that is across the tine line”, meaning Yosef was a Tzadik – someone who is just over the center line between good and evil.

Had a delicious Shabbos meal at Madeline and Martin. The Nachash – snake popped up twice. Once which I cannot say and the second is that I did not bring the Diet Coke. Madeline and Martin eat healthy and do not drink diet pop. I did not pick up the pop as I said I would  and was suffering. Madeline had a 20 ounce bottle of Coke zero and I had to nurse my one glass of Coke Zero the entire evening. We engaged in the fine art of conversation.

Shabbos Morning – December 19, 2015 – Parshas V’Yigash

1) On my way to Shul met Naomi and her two sons. They were on their way to the hospital to visit their father who was very sick. I told them a Dvar Torah. One of the boys is at Rutgers and I will try to set him up to stay for Shabbos with my cousin and family, who live right across the river in Highland Park, NJ, very close to Rutgers. I was dismayed to learn that their father passed away on the following Tuesday.

Naomi and her husband are friendly with Martin and Madeline.

2) Met Pablo from Argentina in front of Peet’s Coffee and invited him to Shul. He came and had an Aliyah.

3) I had a special treat. My niece, Tziporah, met me in Shul. It was great to see her.

4) Rabbi Abner Weiss was his brilliant self. He asked a question. Why did Yehuda and his descendants merit Monarchy in Israel? Reuven was the eldest son of Jacob. Yosef was a viceroy and great leader in Egypt.

The name Yehuda means to give thanks, to acknowledge. Leah named Yehuda as she was giving thanks to God. Yehuda acknowledged his guilt in the incident of Tamar. Tamar did not tell the court that Yehuda was the father. Yosef could have chosen not to acknowledge that he was the father of Tamar’s child. However, before a court consisting of his father, Yaakov, and grandfather, Yitzchok, he admitted to impregnating Tamar out of wedlock. Not easy to do. Yosef could have sidestepped everything by delaying the court proceedings and let Tamar escape without admitting guilt.

Rabbi Abner Weiss said that these are not the reasons for Yehuda’s rise to greatness. It was loyalty to his family. It first started with Tamar, then Yehuda was willing to give up his freedom for his brother, Benjamin, his loyalty to Jacob. To Yehuda, Yosef was this megalomaniac, unpredictable leader of Egypt, who could have imprisoned everyone and destroy their family. Yet Yehuda stood up to Joseph because of his loyalty to family.  What about Joseph’s sale when Yehuda said “What do we get by killing Joseph” and they sold him. It appears to be disloyalty to family. You can say that from that low point in Yehuda’s life, he changed, he realized what he did was wrong and became a completely different person, a change of 180 degrees, and had the moral compass to confront the Egyptian leader. Rabbi

Abner Weiss said that Yehuda was actually loyal to Joseph, because all the brothers felt Yehuda deserved death and Yehuda saved him from death.

Rabbi Abner Weiss mentioned a dear friend of his who was a leader for 15 years, consoled and counseled hundreds of people, had many friends. Yet when he needed his friends the most, they deserted him.

Jews traditionally are loyal to one another. This is one of the secrets of our people. The Jews have suffered for no reason other than being Jewish. However, when there is disloyalty, treachery, and no Achdus the suffering is more intense. We have a current situation today, where there seems to be lack of loyalty, even among Torah leaders. People defend lack of loyalty, claim that Achdus in Klal Yisroel is not a Torah value, and claim the disloyal Rabbi is standing up for trust. This is a false Truth, this is falsehood.

5) I saw a Rashi and said the following Torah thought.

Chapter 45; Verse 4:
דוַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me,” and they drew closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

גשו נא אלי: ראה אותם נסוגים לאחוריהם, אמר עכשיו אחי נכלמים, קרא להם בלשון רכה ותחנונים, והראה להם שהוא מהול
Please come closer: He saw them drawing backwards. He said,“Now my brothers are embarrassed” (Tanchuma Vayigash 5). He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised (Gen. Rabbah 93:10).

Rashi on this Verse says:

Please Come Closer:  He saw them drawing backwards.  He said, “Now my brothers are embarrassed (Tanchuma Vayigash 5)”.  He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised (Gen. Rabbah 93:10).

Rashi used the Hebrew word “Achshav – Now”. It is an extra word. You can read Rashi without the word “Achshav” – Now. They were already embarrassed two seconds ago.

The answer is that with this one word Rashi is answering a fundamental question. Why did Yosef create this drama? Why didn’t he tell them that he is Joseph one year earlier when they first came for food? Rashi is telling us that Yosef had to create a crisis for his brothers. A crisis where they could have lost everything. Yehuda offered to be Yosef’s slave; he would lived out his life as a slave, no freedom, and would have lost his family. The brothers did not know if Yosef would change his mind and imprison all of them.   Yosef’s behavior to them was mercurial in his treatment to them and they did not know what to expect. Binyamin may have been lost to them and their father.

Yosef had to make them feel the emotional turmoil of being put in the position of losing everything, just as Yosef lost everything when they sold him to slavery. This was the only way for them to understand that what they did was wrong and truly be sorry. Otherwise, they would have been embarrassed but would have felt that they were correct in their actions.

5) Met the Rabbi of the UCLA Hillel House – Rabbi Kaplan, a YU Musmach. He learned in Har Etzion – the Gush and I played Jewish geography with him. He was good friends with my Chavrusa, Noah.

6) The Shul served a great meal with Cholent, Chicken Kabob food, and salads. And plenty of Diet Coke.

7) Went back to Martin’s place. Walked my niece to her friend. I spent “islands of time” with her.

8) Got caught in a downpour. Rain is a blessing for LA, as they have been having a multi year drought.

9) Made it to Rabbi Abner Weiss’s Gemora class in his house. I did not have an address, just the general location. I said at Shul that I would be there for Maariv so I felt I had to find his house. I found the house and listened to the class. Davened Maariv

Motzai Shabbos – December 19, 2015

Picked up Tzipporah and went to my niece and nephew’s house in Hancock Park, Michael and Sassha. Michael brought the sushi. I spent 2 hours there catching up on family, stories. They are making a Bar Mitzvah in March 2017 and I told them to book me a reservation.

Sunday – December 20, 2015

Davened at the Westwood Village Shul, however, only 9 people.

Said goodbye to Madeline and Martin.

Picked up Tzipporah and went to visit my aunt Florence, Madeline’s mother, who is at a memory care facility on Fairax, just south of Santa Monica. Spent 90 minutes with her. Had a great time. Although Zipporah is not her relative, Zipporah engaged her in conversation. I felt as if I was with her mother, my sister. Greatly appreciated. I called my mother –in-law, Florence’s sister, so they were able to talk. Departing was not easy.

Went to Pizza Maven for lunch.

Drove to Hollywood Boulevard; walked through the Roosevelt hotel, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and the shops at Hollywood and Highland. Bought a red San Francisco hat for $5.00. Saw a Lubavitch Menorah, next to a Christmas Tree. This is why we love America.

I took Tzipporah to my father’s apartment building and we went inside to the door of his apartment. Dropped Tzipporah off and drove to LAX for my flight home.


Parshas Ki Tavo – Jewish Soldiers

From: Mitch Morgenstern <>
Date: Sunday, August 30, 2015 at 9:54 AM
To: Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Subject: Update

Rabbi Goldberg:

I hope everything is well.  I like your weekly Chumash Shiur.  I listened to your Shiur from Tuesday on Ki Teitzei.   I used your Torah as a springboard,  went through the Rishonim myself, expanded for myself your approach, added to it, and spoke on Shabbos in two places.

I went through the Meshcech Chocma who added greatly.  I find the Meshech Chocma refreshing and the few times I have seen the Meshech Cochma, it seems  that his Torah is very Litvish, very practical.  To me he is part of the Rov’s world, part of Rabbi Kook is his approach. I admit I have seen only a few of his Divrei Torah.  My daughter got me a Cooperman Meshech Chochma  this past June (she was in Michlala this past year, unfortunately did not get me a signed copy) and without Cooperman, it is almost impossible for me to learn the Meshcech Chochma.

I also ended my speech with reading directly from the Abarbanal who beautifully recapped  your approach.

I spoke at Shalosh Suedes and told over your IDF Golani story along with another story I heard.  The crowd is more Yeshvish and I am the only one who will bring up Israel, the IDF, Rav Kook so I thank you for your approach and your stories.  It is not that they do not agree with me, but they do not hear these stories, will never hear a Torah Vort from Rav Kook, how to look positively at the State of Israel and the IDF.

I wish that the BRS classes would be broadcast live and that they be recorded as audio classes.

Wishing you continued success.

From: Mitch Morgenstern
Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2015 9:44 PM
To: Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Subject: Update

Rabbi Goldberg:

I know you will be giving a Shiur tomorrow on Ki Tavo, however, I wanted to add something from your Shiur last week.

The attached Medresh Tanchumah translates “M’Kol Dvar Ra” as there should not be an “Lazunus” – frivolity,  so that you do not come to guilt.

The Medresh is not like any of the other explanations.

I think the Medresh is saying that when you go into the army, a soldier may feel that everything is permitted.  Halacha is that certain things are permitted in times of war,  and since a soldier is in a  situation of Pikuach Nefesh, he will have a laxity in his attitude, Mitzvos, and actions.

The Medresh Tanchuma is saying that a soldier should not have this sense of Lazunus, translated more as laxity.   The YU Kollel Torah M’Tzion had a program where two Kollel members, Rabbis’ Liss and Berman, spoke about why they served in the IDF.  Rabbi Liss was a Yeshiva Hakotel student and Yeshiva Hakotel goes to the army (as I recall) after Purim as a Chevra.  These guys go in with a sense of purpose, with seriousness, and a sense of  responsibility to the entire Jewish nation.  These Bochrim do not go in with Lazunus.

The Medresh Tanchuma is saying be like these Hesder boys, who go in for the right reasons.    Rabbi Liss and Rabbi Berman were riveting and after there speeches, all one can say is Boruch Hashem  we have boys like this.   I sit in one of Rabbi Liss’s classes and I looked at him totally different after his talk.  I  am not on his level.

Rabbi Liss has terrible asthma and during basic training had a serious attack.  He was told that he could get a desk job, yet he refused, and completed basic training.  They made him a tank driver which is not as hard.  When he left after his 14 months in the Hesder program, he had a sense that was deserting his friends who serve for three years.    Rabbi Berman was equally compelling.

Rabbi Liss said they had 20 minutes for Mincha, which only took 10 minutes.  They spent the extra 10 minutes learning


Three Shabbosim – Three Cities – Three Great People

May 30th – June 6th – June 13th
Nasah – Behaloscha – Shelach

Shabbos – June 6, 2015 – 19 Sivan 5775 Parshas Behaloscha

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin -Shlita

In my never ending quest to meet great people, I went to hear Rabbi Shlomo Riskin speak at KJBS.   Rabbi Riskin is the founder of Efrat in Israel.

Entering the Shul, I saw Hart Hasten.  He is one of the sponsors of the Shabbos.  He called me the Kotzker.  I reminded him of the story in 1967 when the IDF captured the Kotel and Menachem Begin had called  Prime  Minister  Levi Eshkol  at 4:00 AM that the IDF must enter the old city immediately and Menachem Begin’s prayer at the Kotel.  He said that he has more stories to write another book which is what his wife wants him to do.  He should as he is living history.

Rabbi Riskin spoke at 7:00 PM.  He wore a black Kapote with subtle gold sprinkles.  He had a big white Kippah Sruga.     His theme was about the duty of the Jewish people to bring moral conscience to the world.  When we fail in our mission we are punished.  He spoke about the rainbow the God showed to Noah that He will not destroy the world.   The circle would have been a better choice, but a rainbow was used because God will not destroy the world, but man can.   Western society is based on the Greeks and Romans whose society was based on might is right, to the victors the spoils.   Anyone who imposes their views on someone is someone who is a Roman.

Rabbi Riskin spoke again at the Shlosh Siuedas meal.  He told over how the city of Efrat was created with the confluence of history with The Rov – Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevy Solovechik; theRebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe; and Menachem Begin.

In 1977, Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel.  His first trip was to America and he went to visit the Rov, the Rebbe, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.   Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was the leader of the generation in Halacha – Jewish law.  The Rov, the leader of the generation in Lomdos – Torah learning. The Rebbe the leader of the generation in his concern for every Jew and the world.

1)  The Rov


The Rav and the Prime Minister: Memories of Brisk from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Listening to God:

Some years later, when I was teaching at Yeshiva University, I would generally request a meeting with the Rav on Thursday afternoons to ask my “questions of the week.” He would usually give me from two minutes to an exceedingly rare, two hours, depending upon the pressures of his day. During one particular meeting, while the Rav was in the midst of showing me a passage from the Guide for the Perplexed, a telephone call came announcing that Menachem Begin, newly elected prime minister of Israel, would be arriving shortly. The prime minister of Israel is generally considered to be the prime minister of world Jewry, and this first traditional prime minister announced that during his first official visit to the United States, he wished an audience with the three religious Jewish leaders of the generation: the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik. Now that the revered head of state was about to enter the Rav’s New York apartment, I knew that good manners dictated that I excuse myself; my curiosity, however, got the better of my gentility, and I opted to remain until I was specifically asked to leave.

When Menachem Begin walked through the door, the Rav quickly jumped up to meet him. As they embraced, the Rav seemed especially moved, with what appeared to me to be tears welling up in his eyes. These two Jewish world leaders, the foremost statesmen in the political arena and the foremost rabbi in the religio-philosophical realm, both shared a common “Brisker” (Brest-Litovsk, Lithuania) connection.

Rav Joseph Dov’s illustrious grandfather, Rav Chayyim Soloveitchik (who pioneered a new conceptual methodology for the study of Talmud), was the rabbi of the main synagogue in Brisk and therefore of the entire city; indeed, he was known worldwide as the “Brisker Rav.” Menachem Begin’s father, Binyamin Begin – an avid Zionist, a devotee of the Revisionist Movement’s founder, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and in his own right a riveting orator – was the gabbai (lay leader) of that same synagogue in Brisk. And just to add some spices to the cholent, one of the three judges (dayanim) of that synagogue community was Rav Moshe Chazan, the father of Yaakov Chazan, founder and leader of Mapam and the initiator of the secular Shomer HaTza’ir kibbutzim in Israel – and the midwife who “birthed” all of the babies was the grandmother of Ariel Sharon. Menachem Begin had been born and raised in Brisk, and Rav J.B. Soloveitchik had spent significant Sabbaths there with his grandfather, including that of his bar mitzvah.

After their initial embrace of greeting, both men stood looking at each other, respectfully, admiringly, nostalgically. The Rav seemed to burst out, “Mr. Prime Minister, you are so short, and your father was so tall.” Menachem Begin responded, “Kavod HaRav, I will say two things. Firstly, you remember how my father looked when you were a small child, and all adults seem taller than they actually are, to children. But the real point is that my father was always a much taller and greater man than I.”

And there they sat at the table and began to reminisce together, the one entering into the words of the other and finishing the other’s thoughts and sentences. Clearly they felt transported to their childhood in Brisk, as their Yiddish words and gesticulations evoked that world. A world in which either the rabbi or the gabbai held the keys to the synagogue, and Binyamin Begin had gladly given up his keys to the illustrious Reb Chayyim when the latter accepted the rabbinical position. A place where a bar mitzvah who was preparing to spend his biblical portion in Brisk, couldn’t sleep a week beforehand because his revered grandfather insisted that every cantillation had to be exactly accurate or the entire verse would have to be repeated; an ideological climate in which Zionist leaders were either revered as forerunners of the Messiah, or reviled as rebels against God’s rule over the cosmos.

And then they both recounted an incident together, the one dispute they remembered that had taken place between the gabbai and the rabbi, between Binyamin Begin and Rav Chayyim Soloveitchik. Theodore Herzl, the legendary father of modern Zionism, died, and Binyamin Begin planned to eulogize him in the main synagogue of Brisk. Reb Chayyim was an anti-Zionist who certainly did not believe it proper to eulogize a non-observant Jew who probably ate on Yom Kippur, in an Orthodox synagogue. Since it was the rabbi who had the keys, without any kind of discussion or debate, Reb Chayyim locked the synagogue door on the morning of the scheduled eulogy. Binyamin Begin, a powerful person in his own right, broke the lock, opened the synagogue doors wide, and gave his eulogy. He then purchased new keys and a lock, and left them on the doorstep of Reb Chayyim’s home with a letter of apology and a promise that he would never do such a thing again.

Both men agreed to the facts of this. But the Rav added a fascinating postscript. He had heard of this incident from his father, Rav Moshe, who was a rabbi of a smaller town a considerable distance from Brisk. Rav Moshe asked his father, Reb Chayyim, how he had reacted to the gabbai’s defiance. Reb Chayyim, who was generally a lion in defense of what he considered proper Torah values, told his son that he decided not to react, that he inquired how many people had attended the eulogy, and found out that the shul was filled to the rafters with a large overflow outside, many more congregants than for Ne’ila on Yom Kippur. Reb Chayyim explained that “a rav muz vissen ven tzu reden, un a rav muz vissen ven tzu shreigen, a rabbi must know when to speak out, and a rabbi must know when to remain silent.”

“Mr. Prime Minister, you apparently learned to be a principled Zionist from your father,” said Rav Soloveitchik. “Kavod HaRav, you apparently learned to be a sage religious leader from your grandfather,” said Menachem Begin.

At that point, the Rav suddenly took notice of my presence, made a very quick introduction, and gestured in a way that told me that my appointment had long since ended. I left the apartment happily, not at all guilty that I had overstayed my welcome. After all, this too was Torah, and I was glad that I had been in the right place to have learned it.

2)  The Rebbe

The year is 1981.  Rabbi Riskin moved forward to create  Efrat, just seven miles from Jerusalem.  He was in America and had to travel to Israel for the groundbreaking and laying  the cornerstone for the city of Efrat.  The groundbreaking for Efrat was to be on a Monday.  The Thursday before, Rabbi Riskin was at a wedding and afterwards went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Fabrengen.   He came after the Rov left and was seated in the Rov’s seat.  When the Rebbe finished he walked towards the exit and passed by Rabbi Riskin.  The Rebbe stopped and told Rabbi Riskin that Rabbi Riskin is always in the Rebbe’s prayers.  Rabbi Riskin said he wanted a Bracha for his project in Efrat.  The Rebbe responded, God should make your plans successful.  The Rebbe took a few steps towards the exit, turned around and went back to Rabbi Riskin and said again, God should make your efforts successful.  (I was told that Rabbi Riskin on many occasions spoke to the Rebbe about Efrat.)

3)  Menachem Begin

Rabbi Riskin lands in Israel on Sunday and his partner calls frantically.  There was a terrorist attack on the west bank and the Israeli government froze all settlement activity.  Rabbi Riskin asks who can override this policy.  His partner told him, only the Prime Minister, Menachem Begin.  They call a Knesset member, a Rabbi, who was recovering from heart surgery.  The Rabbbi despite his illness, called Begin on behalf of Riskin.   Riskin was told to show up at the prime minister’s office the following Monday.

Rabbi Riskin goes to the Prime Ministers office.  Begin asks what you want?  Rabbi Riskin told him the problem.  Menachem Begin calls over Yechiel Kadishai and asks to bring  Herzl’s The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat).  In it, Menachem Begin finds a paragraph that says that when the Jewish State is formed; there will be groups and groups of Jews going to the land (I cannot find the exact quote).

Menachem Begins tells Rabbi Riskin that you can have the groundbreaking ceremony, but only one Knesset member and no publicity.  Despite no publicity, 6,000 people showed up.

Begin then turns to Riskin and says that they met at the Rov’s house back in 1977.  They talked for another few moments.


Rav Kookשִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד

“I have placed the Lord before me constantly” – Psalms 16:8

Last week I received the new biography on the life of Rav Avrohom Yitzchak Kook by Rabbi Yehudah Mirsky, titled, “Rav Kook – Mystic in a Time of Revolution”.  It was very exciting for me.  I heard my first lecture on the life of Rav kook in February given at the Boca Raton Synagogue by Rabbi Yosef Kassorla.  It was a 1.5 hour lecture and it barely scratched the surface of the life of Rav Kook.

One of the books used by Rabbi Yosef Kassorla was Rabbi Yehudah Mirsky’s recently published biography on Rav Kook. Last month Rabbi Yehudah Mirsky spoke at a JUF function at Anshe Sholem and I was privileged to hear Rabbi Mirsky directly.  I was able to purchase the book and it arrived in the mail last week, signed by Rabbi Mirsky.

I have read nothing about Rabbi Kook until now.  I did meet Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchak Levine at Shoshana Parker’s wedding in Philadelphia.  Rabbi Levine who was Rov in Lower Marion, PA is a grandson Rabbi Aryeh Levine (A Tzaddik in our Time).  Rabbi Levine told me that he was the first boy named after the passing of Rabbi Kook in 1935.

Rabbi Kassorla’s Shiur portrayed the great life of Rabbi Kook.  He told a story about Rabbi Kook that gave me context for another story.

Last month, I was at Bnei Ruvain and had a few seconds waiting for the Chazzen to begin the repetition of the Amidah due to my quick pace of praying.  I opened up a Sefer titled “Stories of Chassidim”, put out by the Kehot publishing house, to a random page and read the first story.  The story was about the Koshnitzer Magid (1733 – 184) and he was in the city of Apta.  The Koshnitzer Magid was asked to speak and responded to the request, “I will not speak because I spoke last year and no one was inspired,  so why should I speak again?”.  Comes along a farmer and says to the Koshitzer Magid, “Last year you spoke about the need for   שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד .   Since I heard your speech last year I constantly think about Hashem”.  The Koshnitzer Magid said, “my speech was successful and I will speak this year”.

This is a nice story but normally would mean nothing to me.  What does it mean to live with God.  I certainly do not.

However, thanks to Rabbi Kassrola, I understand what it means to live with שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד.

Rabbi Kassorla told the following story about Rabbi Kook.  Rabbi Kook arrives in Volzhin in 1884.  The Dean of Volzhin, the Netziv, is smitten with Rav Kook and senses something special about Rav Kook.  The Netziv said that if the entire purpose of Volzhen was to have Rabbi Kook study here, it would have been well worth it.  The other Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik said, “beware of the pious lad from Grieva.”  Page 16 and 17 of Rabbi Mirsky’s book tells the story.  Why was Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik wary of Rav Kook?  Rav Kook looked and acted like a Chasid.  Rav Kook had a beard and prayed like a Chassid, and wore Tefilim all day.  Most students at Volzhin were clean shaven and, to Rabbi Soloveichik, a thoroughgoing Mitnagid and a genius of abstract, elegant textual analysis, “pious” – (fervor in prayer and action) was not a compliment.

Volozhin in the 1880’s was an elite Yeshiva with the best Jewish minds congregating to study with its great Torah giants.  Many great Jewish leaders came out of Volzhin, including some great secular thinkers.   As Rabbi Mirsky said on page 16 in his book, “Haskalah and its literature were in the air at Volzhin, in the dormitories, and at time inside the folio of Talmud over which the students pored day and night.  Indeed, a fellow student named Zelig Reuven Bengis noticed that Kook would during his Talmud study, repeatedly look dawn at some paper on a shelf of his study stand.  Thinking that Kook was stealing glances at Maskilic literature or newspaper, Bengis reported his fears to Berlin, who told him to leave Kook alone, saying , “he’s a tzaddik.”  Unable to restrain himself, the student  eventually caught a glimpse of Kook’s mysterious papers, “And what did I find?  As Rabbi Kassorla put it, the papers contained the words   שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד  .

Rabbi Kassorla went on and told another story of Rav Kook, which highlights, what it means to live שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד.

Rav Kook married the daughter of ,(1942/3 – 1905) a Rabbi of Ponevezh, known by the acronym, Aderat.   As was the custom of the times, right after marriage Rav Kook moved into his in-laws house to be supported by his in-laws so he can concentrate of Torah study.  Lo Haya, V’Lo Nivrah.       The Aderat was extremely poverty stricken and there was no way the Aderat would be able to support this son-in-law and his daughter.  What does someone who lives a life of שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד    do.  Rav Kook accepts a Rabbinical post in Zeimel to support both himself and his father-in-law.  This was Rav Kook,        שִׁוִּיתִי יְהֹוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד        and this is why he became a great leader in Israel despite his studies being interrupted at age 21 to accept communal responsibility.

Excerpts from the book

Toras Shemos 2013: Moshe – Leadership, Identification, and Responsibility

11. Now it came to pass in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers.

יא. וַיְהִי | בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וַיִּגְדַּל משֶׁה וַיֵּצֵא אֶל אֶחָיו וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי מַכֶּה אִישׁ עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו:

  1. Rashi says on “Moses grew up”; was it not already written the child grew up.  Rabbi Judah the son of Rabbi Illai says:  The first one (was Moses growth) in height, and the second one (was his growth) in greatness, because Pharaoh appointed him over his house,

  2. Rashi says on “and looked at their burdens” He directed his eyes and his heart to be distressed over them.  Berashis Rabbah 1:27.


The Ramban argues on the first  Rashi on “Moses Grew Up” and says that Moshe grew up and became a man.  He matured.   The Ramban agrees with the second Rashi of  וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם – Moshe was told that he was a Jew, and he desired to see them because they were his brothers.  And he says their burden and work, and could not handle (their hardship), and therefore he killed the Egyptian hitting the oppressed (Jew).

The Ramban in Hebrew:

(יא): ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו –
שגדל והיה לאיש. כי מתחלה אמר ויגדל הילד (לעיל פסוק י), שגדל עד שלא היה צריך לגמלה אותו, ואז הביאתהו לבת פרעה ויהי לה לבן כי לפני מלכים יתייצב, ואחרי כן גדל ויהי לאיש דעת:

וטעם ויצא אל אחיו –
כי הגידו לו אשר הוא יהודי, והיה חפץ לראותם בעבור שהם אחיו. והנה נסתכל בסבלותם ועמלם ולא יכול לסבול ולכן הרג המצרי המכה הנלחץ:

The Seferno agrees with Rashi and the Ramban, as follows:

וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלתָם. נָתַן לִבּו לִרְאות בָּעֳנִי אֶחָיו.

וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי מַכֶּה אִישׁ עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו. וּמִצַּד הָאַחֲוָה הִתְעורֵר לְהִנָּקֵם.

Rashi, the Ramban, and Seferno are based on the Medresh Rabbah, see attached for a beautiful Medresh.  See attachment #2 at the end of this post.


Along comes the Ibn Ezra and says something that seems incomprehensible:

Translated in English – 11. “And he went out to his brothers.” The Egyptians“, because he (Moshe) was in the palace of the king.  And the reason for “from his brothers (the second time the Passuk says from his brothers) is that after the Passuk mentions, a Jew from his family, (the word “his brothers” in this Passuk is to mean the same as when Abraham spoke to Lot) like we are men who are relatives – brothers.

What does the Ibn Ezra mean – he went out to see “the Egyptians”?  All Reshonim and the Medresh say he went out to see his brothers, the Jews.  The Netter Mikros Gedolos has an explanation on the Ibn Ezra who explains the words “the Egyptians” are referring to the Jews, since they were living in Egypt, the Ibn Ezra referred to them as Egyptians.  Very difficult as the Ibn Ezra should have said that Moshe went out to see the Jews.

Comes along the Holy Klausinberger Rebbi and explains the Ibn Ezra magnificently.  The Klausingberger explains that the Ibn Ezra understands וַיִּגְדַּל משֶׁה  in  Passuk 11 the same as Rashi that Moshe was appointed a leader of Egypt.  He was appointed to oversee the land of Egypt.  What was Moshe’s first act when he was now in charge; he wants to understand his job and determine what he has to do; to meet with all his brothers – the government officials, the engineers, the workers.  This is the meaning of  וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם  to see the public works of Egypt.    ַבְּסִבְלֹתָם  here means the work needed in the land of Egypt (and not like Rashi and the Ramban who says this means the burdens of the Jews.)   The Klausingberger adds that these government officials were his brothers.  He identifies with them as an Egyptian.  He sees them “in the palace of the king” as moral, thoughtful, and decent men.  However, what happens.  Moshe sees cruelty. He sees these seemingly refined individuals behave with ultimately cruelty and everything changes.  Moshe is smacked in the face and he now identifies with the slave, the Jew, and now the Jew is his brother, and not the Egyptian.

Beautiful.  Unfortunately, I do not have the Klausingberger in front of me because I think he says it slightly differently and more gloriously.

I saw in the book, Margolios Hatorah. – the Gems of the Torah, that Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein says in his Sefer that Passuk 11 is telling us what Moshe gave to all future generations, the strength and innate ability to reject comfort, honor, and recognition, in the greater dominant and successful society to remain a faithful Jew.    Moshe  had the opportunity to live a life of Egyptian nobility, to be the cream of society, yet he  went out to his brothers to save them, to identify with their pain and suffering.  The result was that he was on the run, thrown out of Egypt, and his comfortable life a memory.   Rabbi  Finklestien says that from here we learn proper behavior, not like those who once they become promoted to a high position and become successful, they flee from their brothers and feel superior to them.  The actions of our forefathers are a sign to (baked into) their children.  Moshe could have remained as an Egyptian, turned a blind eye to the Jews, as he was raised as a prince of Egypt.  Yet, he rejected the recognition of greatness in the dominant society  that could have been his in Egyptian society  and identified and cast  his lot with the downtrodden Jews.

We know of many Jews who once they become successful and respected in the general society gave up their religion and identify with the greater society, completely cutting themselves off from the Jewish people and all of the issues we Jews have with being a nation alone.  Look at what the State of Israel has to suffer and many Jews have no trouble abandoning Israel to fit into society.  

This ability of rejecting acceptance in the greater society and identifying with the Jew,  is not only with Orthodox Jews who are unmistakable Jewish, but it also is baked into secular Jews who can easily melt into society and turn their back on the Jews.  During the 1800’s when the ghetto walls came down,  many Jews converted to gain acceptance into the greater society and forgot their Jewish roots.  Look at the Rothschild family.  

We have the example in Orthodoxy by the Abarbanel, who was offered to stay in Spain, yet chose exile with his community.  

We also have the example in secular society with Theodore Herzl.  Herzl was an assimilated Jew.  He was wealthy, successful, and identified himself as an Austrian, not as a Jew.  He was so assimilated that when he thought about the plight of the Jews, he approached with Archbishop of Vienna, with a plan to convert the Jews.  The Archbishop laughed at Theodore Herzl. Herzl went from being an Austrian to identifying with the Jews, returning to his religion, and trying to save them.  As my cousin, Martin Brody writes the following vignette about Theodore Herzl.

Leadership, Repentance and Going Home.

At last!

Teshuva literally means return. But return to what? There are several word for sin in Hebrew, the most well known perhaps being “Chet” which is used dozens of times in the Yom Kippur liturgy for example. With Judaism so concerned with self elevation, that this word for sin means missing the mark, as if one was not in the right place. The English word transgress is similar, meaning moving outside the border, away from one’s home. So Teshuva means returning home at least in a spiritual sense, and Judah introduced the concept, later to be repeated and amplified with Joseph, to whom he and his brothers had caused so much distress. This step alone earned him the right of leadership and the progenitor of kings and the future Messiah.

A young Austrian, thoroughly assimilated Jewish writer had invited the Chief Rabbi of Vienna over to his house one December evening to discuss a wild and crazy idea. On entering the home, the writer asked the Rabbi if he would like to join them for the lighting. As it was Chanukah, the Rabbi was delighted to attend, but on entering the family room was shocked to see the writer and his family about to light the Christmas tree. It was Christmas Eve! The Rabbi took the writer aside and had a long discussion about his Judaism, and convinced the writer to perhaps light a Menorah instead.


This young Austrian writer was none other than the great Theodor Herzl. This little known vignette with the Rabbi was to have a tremendous impact on his life. The wild and crazy idea, of course, was Zionism, the return of Jews after nineteen hundred years to sovereignty in their homeland. A movement to go home. This was spurred on by the horrific Dreyfus trial to which he was a reporter. So alienated from his religion he previously thought the answer to anti-Semitism was conversion to Christianity, but that was jettisoned by the events at the trial. But after the meeting with the Rabbi there was a new ingredient to the mix. Religious observance. He was repenting, returning. So much so, that in 1897 he publicly declared that there could be no return to Zion without a return to Judaism. How much he moved in the direction of observance is not our business, but move he did. And he did not physically return home to Israel, but through his genius, courage and leadership, millions did and will in the future.

So much was his importance that Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of pre- State Palestine and the leader of the religious Zionist faction declared that Theodor Herzl could have been Messiah Ben Joseph, the precursor of Messiah Ben Yehuda.


The eight day festival of Chanuka begins this Friday night. Below I have reproduced the magnificent essay, Menorah, penned by Herzl shortly after that momentous meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Vienna..

 Shabbat Shalom and have a great Chanukah

Martin Brody

 Read Theodore Herzl’s essay titled, The Menorah:


 Deep in his soul he began to feel the need of being a Jew. His circumstances were not unsatisfactory, he enjoyed an ample income and a profession that permitted him to do whatever his heart desired for he was an artist. His Jewish origin and the faith of his fathers had long since ceased to trouble him, when suddenly the old hatred came to the surface again in a new mob-cry. With many others he believed that this flood would shortly subside. But there was no change for the better, and every blow, even though not directed at him, struck him with fresh pain till little by little his soul become one bleeding wound. These sorrows,  buried deep in his heart and silenced there, evoked thoughts of their origin and of his Judaism and now he did something he could not perhaps have done in the old days, he began to love his Judaism with an intense fervour. Although in his own eyes he could not, at first, clearly justify this new yearning, it became so powerful at length that it crystallized from vague emotions into a definite idea which he must need express. It was the conviction that there was only one solution for this moral misery and that was a return to Judaism.

 “The Jew of to-day had lost the poise which was his father’s very being. This generation, having grown up under the influence of alien cultures, was no longer capable of that return which he had perceived to be their redemption. But the new generation would be capable of it, if it were only given the right direction early enough. He resolved, therefore that his own children, at least, should be shown the proper path. They should be trained as Jews in their own home.

“Hitherto he had permitted to pass by unobserved the holiday which the wonderful apparition of the Maccabees had illumined for thousands of years with the glow of miniature lights. Now, however, he made this holiday an opportunity to prepare something beautiful which should be forever commemorated in the minds of his children. In their young souls should be implanted early, a steadfast devotion to their ancient people. He bought a Menorah, and when he held this nine-branched candlestick in his hands for the first time a strange mood came over him. In his father’s house also the lights had once burned in his youth, now far away, and the recollection gave him a sad and tender feeling for home. The tradition was neither cold nor dead, thus it had passed through the ages, one light kindling another. Moreover, the ancient form of the Menorah had excited his interest. Clearly the design was suggested by the tree, in the centre the sturdy trunk, on right and left four branches, one below the other, in one place, and all of equal height. A later symbolism brought with it the short ninth branch, which projects in front and functions as a servant. What mystery had the generations which followed one another read into this form of art, at once so simple and natural! And our artist wondered to himself if it were not possible to animate again the withered form of the Menorah, to water its roots, as one would a tree. The mere sound of the name, which he now pronounced every evening to his children, gave him great pleasure. There was a loveable ring to the word when it came from the lips of little children.

“On the first night the candle was lit and the origin of the holiday explained. The wonderful incident of the lights that strangely remained burning so long, the story of the return from the Babylonian exile, the second Temple, the Maccabees, our friend told his children all he knew. It as not very much, to be sure, but it served. When the second candle was lit, they repeated  what he had told them and though it had all been learnt from him, it seemed to him quite new and beautiful. In the days that followed he waited keenly- for the evenings, which became ever brighter. Candle after candle stood in the Menorah, and the father mused on the little candles with his children till at length his reflections became too deep to be uttered before them.

“Then came the eighth day, when the whole row burns, even the faithful ninth, the servant , which on other nights is used only for the lighting of the others. A great splendour streamed from the Menorah. The children’s eyes glistened. But for our friend all this was the symbol of the enkindling of a nation. When there is but one light all is still dark, and the solitary light looks melancholy. Soon it finds one companion, then another, and another. The darkness must retreat. The light comes first to the young and the poor, then others join those who love Justice, Truth, Liberty, Progress, Humanity, and Beauty. When all the candles burn, then we must all stand and rejoice over the achievement. And no office can be more blessed than that of a Servant of the Light.”

Theodor Herzl

(Trans. B. L. Pouzzner.)

January 25, 1904: Herzl Finally Meets the Pope, but the meeting did not go well for him!

Herzl wrote in his diary that the Pope received him standing, and held out his hand, but Herzl refused to kiss it. Herzl also wrote in his diary that the go-between Lippay had told him in advance that he must kiss the Pope’s hand, but Herzl said he wouldn’t do it. “I believe that this spoiled my chances with him, for everyone who visits him kneels and at least kisses his hand. This hand kiss had worried me a great deal and I was glad when it was out of the way”.

Herzl begun the meeting with the Pope by thanking him for the opportunity. Herzl put forth the request that brought him to seek audience with the Pope. But the Pope replied by saying:

“We are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we could never sanction it. The ground of Jerusalem, if it were not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church, I cannot answer you otherwise. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people. Jerusalem cannot be placed in Jewish hands.”

Herzl then asked the Pope if he had any problem with the Holy land being under the control of the Muslims? The Pope relied:

“I know it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. But we simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do.”

However, Herzl attributed the Pope’s answer due to Herzl’s refusal to kiss the Pope’s hand.




Toras V’Yishlach

Chapter 34, Verse 1:

1. Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to look about among the daughters of the land.

וַתֵּצֵא  דִינָה  בַּת  לֵאָה  אֲשֶׁר  יָלְדָה  לְיַעֲקֹב  לִרְאוֹת  בִּבְנוֹת  הָאָרֶץ:

  Rashi says on this Passuk:

 And not the daughter of Yaakov.  However, because of her going out she was called the daughter of Leah, since she {Leah} too was in the habit of going out, as it says, in Ve’Yetzi, Chapter 30, verse 16 –” and she came forth to meet him” from Tanchuma Vayishlach 7 (And concerning  her, they  devise the proverb : Like mother like daughter).   From Midrash Rabbah 80:1


When you read Rashi, there really is no criticism of Leah.  It is benign.  “Going out” could be good or bad.  

Artscroll  writes the generally held view that spins Rashi negatively, Dinah was immodest and Leah was excessively outgoing.  What!   We are now criticising Leah.    Leah  was one of the “Eimohos” –  founding mothers of the Jewish nation, the one who cried until her eyelashes fell out not to marry Eisav.  

In fact, I would say the opposite of Artscroll.  Rashi seems to be saying – in case you think  that the Passuk speaks harshly of Dinah,  because the Passuk says that Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land, Rashi says, this is not true.  Just as Leah was a righteous person and her going out was done out of holiness, so too was Dinah going out for holiness.    What does Rashi gain by criticising Leah, one of the founders of the Jewish people.      Has Rashi turned into a Bible critic?   impossible.

Artscroll’s interpretation  seems to be based on Midrash Rabbah, Chapter 80, Section 1, copy attached.  In fact, all the Chumashim add that the source of Rashi is from this Midrash Rabbah.   The Midrash actually says that the end of Section 1, that Dina and Leah were dressed as Zona’s (harlots).    How can an Amorah, who lived in the second generation after the destruction of the Second Temple say this interpretation.   Can you imagine if this was said today?   Impossible! 

I said an explanation a few years ago and my brother-in-law showed me that I was in line with the explanation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe  This year I saw it in the Gutnick Chumash, in the portion that says Toras Menacham,  copy attached.

I want to say the Rashi actually means the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s explanation.  Rashi is not being critical of Leah and Dinah, but rather he is praising them.

The Rebbe writes that Dinah had a tremendous ability to bring spirituality to the world.  In a sense, she was the first Lubavitcher Shiliach.  She went out into the world to positively impact the “daughters of Shechem”.  Leah had the same  ability, the ability to go out to the world and bring people closer to God.  After all, Dinah was a descendant of Avrohom.  Proof of this is that Yaakov was criticized for hiding Dinah from Eisav.  Only if Dinah had this tremendous ability to bring people to Hashem and had it within her to positively influence the evil Eisav, is Yaakov criticised.

Rabbi Lichtman this morning at our Daf Yomi Shiur added to my explanation.  There is a Midresh  that says the Yosef’s wife was Dinah.  If so, this is beautiful.  Yosef is the epitome of the Jew who is involved in the general world, maintained his Jewish soul, and had a positive impact on the world.  It is fitting that Dinah should marry Yosef.

I will add another indication, similar to Rabbi Lichtman.  Dinah, per the Midrash was initially a boy;  however, Leah, prayed to Hashem to make the fetus into a female.  I saw somewhere that Dinah had the Neshama of Yosef.  If so, just like Yosef had the ability to intermingle with the world, Dinah had the same ability, and bring people closer to Hashem.

The question is, how you explain the Midrash because clearly the Midrash appears to be critical of Leah.  Is the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Abarbanal arguing on the Midrash.

The answer is no, no, no.  The source of Rashi is not the Midrash.  Rashi is positive and not negative.  The people who printed the Chumash who added that the source of Rashi is the Midrash Rabbah 80:1 were wrong.   I have proof of this.  Look at Rashi again.  Notice, the words in Rashi (And concerning  her, they  those that say parables, say: Like mother like daughter)  is in parentheses. These words are very similar to the Midrash and this is what seems to anchor Rashi to the Midrash.  However, we  do not read parenthesis.  Per a Rov, words in Rashi that have parentheses around them, are words that were not in Rashi’s manuscripts.   They were added later by others.    The answer is that Rashi is not based on the Midrash, so parentheses were used on these words, to tell us not to read these words because that there is no connection between Rashi and the Midrash.  These words were put into Rashi in later generations who got it wrong.   

How to understand the Midrash:

Look at the Midrash, pages 5-7 of the attached.  Although the Midrash at the end says that Leah and Dinah were dressed as harlots, Reb Yosi said this only in the context of a response to Reb Yehuda Nesia.  It was not said as the explanation of the Passuk.   The story in the Midresh is that Reb Yosi publicly insulted the house of the Nasia saying that they are unethical.  Finally at the end, Reb Yosi insults Reb Yehuda Nesai to his face via insinuation, allusion, and intimation.  Reb Yehuda Nesia did not realize he was being insulted.  Reb Yosi was in fact alluding to the Reb Yehuda Nesia and the house of the Nasi, saying that they sold themselves for money and they are animals.

As the cliché goes, “the Empower has no Clothes”.


VeYatzah Dinah

Parsha Vayeitzei

Notes for Chumash Shiur to be given at Anshe Sholem on 11/7/13 at 4:50 PM and hopefully at the Bais Ment at the Glenners.

Thanks to Rabbi David Wolkenfeld for giving me the time to give a Chumash Shiur.  I plan to speak on four Verses:

Torah Thought #1:

Chapter 28, Verse 19:

Source:  Beautiful Dvar Torah heard from Rabbi Abner Weiss, Rabbi of the Village Shul in Westwood, LA, Martin Brody’s Shul. 

יט. וַיִּקְרָא אֶת שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא בֵּית אֵל וְאוּלָם לוּז שֵׁם הָעִיר לָרִאשֹׁנָה:

19. And he named the place Beth El, but Luz was originally the name of the city

Question – What is the significance that Luz was the original name?

Answer:   Luz is mentioned in Sotah 46b as a place where people lived forever and when the old men became tired of life,  they go outside the wall and then die.

Luz represents stagnation, lack of growth.    Yaakov brought the concept of growth, that we must all grow in our service to God, in spirituality, and in life.  This is behind the name change.  Yaakov taught the world the we must became   a   בֵּית אֵל – a house of God, always growing in our connection to God, our learning, and our helping others and in spirituality.

Torah Thought #2:

Chapter 29, Verses 10 and 11:

Source:   Mitch Morgenstern in LA at Aunt Florence’s house after a beautiful Friday night Shabbos meal at Madeline and Martin’s house.

י  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָה יַעֲקֹב אֶת-רָחֵל, בַּת-לָבָן אֲחִי אִמּוֹ, וְאֶת-צֹאן לָבָן, אֲחִי אִמּוֹ; וַיִּגַּשׁ יַעֲקֹב, וַיָּגֶל אֶת-הָאֶבֶן מֵעַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר, וַיַּשְׁקְ, אֶת-צֹאן לָבָן אֲחִי אִמּוֹ.

10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.

יא  וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב, לְרָחֵל; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלוֹ, וַיֵּבְךְּ.

11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

Question:      Why did Yaakov give water to sheep before he kissed Rochel?

Observation:   The Hebrew words for “watered” and “kissed” are the same letters.

Answer:  When Yaakov saw Rochel for the first time, he was bubbling with emotion.  Yaakov sees Rochel and knows that this is the person he is to marry; this was why he was in Choren.  Yet while seeing Rochel, he also takes note of the sheep.  He understands that he cannot take care of his own needs (introducing himself to Rochel) until the sheep are watered.  They are innocent animals that rely on their shepherd to take care of them.    So, he rolls the stone from the well, waters the sheep, and only then does he let his emotions flow, he kisses Rochel.   This is what a righteous person does, and this is what is expected from every Jew.

The Hebrew word for watering is       וַיַּשְׁקְ       and the Hebrew word for “kiss” is  וַיִּשַּׁק   ,  Both are the same letters, albeit with different punctuation.  Yaakov’s love for Rochel was, what can I do for Rochel.  It is not about me, it is about my future wife, Rochel.   

Perhaps this is why the Torah used the word    וַיִּשַּׁק – and he kissed.  The question is asked did Yaakov actually kiss Yaakov.  If you do not want to say that Yaakov actually kissed Rochel, perhaps you can answer that the Torah uses the word kissed to mean, that he loved Rochel, with a love that she was the center of his universe.  They were together to start a family life and start the nation of Israel.              

It is the same idea noted by Rabbi David Wolkenfeld in last’s week Sedra and in my post from last week.  Yitzchok prayed for his wife to have children because she was barren.   It was not about him, it was about his suffering wife.

Torah Thought #3:

Chapter 29, Verse 17:

 Source – Mitch Morgenstern explains the meaning of the word  רַכּוֹת ;  and the Kotzker Rebbe.

Chapter 29, Verse 17 says the following:

 יז  וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה, רַכּוֹת; וְרָחֵל, הָיְתָה, יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וִיפַת מַרְאֶה

17 And Leah’s eyes were weak; but Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.

Observation – Onkalys and Rasbam seems to argue with Rashi.

Onkalys and Rasbam  explain the word       רַכּוֹת;     to mean “nice”.    She has beautiful eyes and eyes are the window of the soul.  

Rashi  understands the word  רַכּוֹת;   to mean just the opposite based on the Gemorah in Baba Basra 123a.  The Gemorah says that     רַכּוֹת;    means “weak” or “cried out”. The Gemorah says that her eyelashes fell out due to her crying and she was not pretty.  The Gemorah later on seems to say that her prettiness was that she was worried about her spiritual future and did not want to marry an evil person.  This is her beauty.

Kotzker Vort – on Rashi

 Page 14 of the attached Notes for Chumash Shiur .  It is worthwhile to read the Kotzker Vort in Hebrew.  The Kotzker said:

“One should always take note of what people are saying, proof of this because of this Passuk and Rashi.  “Leah’s eyes are weak, because she cried, she heard that people were saying the she would  marry Eisav.  Who was saying this, Lavan and friends, so why should she cry about this” (meaning, why cry because someone says something.  They were just pointing out something that may happen because Lavan’s mother married Yitzhcok and maybe his sons will marry Yaakov, not that this would necessarily happen).  The Kotzker concludes, “but you have to be aware of what people are saying”, especially someone who has control.  

The Kotzker is saying listen and observe what people are talking about to protect yourself, to be prepared to have a response when that thing happens and you do not want it to happen to you.     You have to control your life; do not let others dictate to you.  They may or may not be acting for your benefit.  Only you can decide.

Torah Thought #4:

Chapter 31, Verses 36 – 43:

 Source:    Meir Chase was given a copy of a speech by his seatmate on a flight approximately 10 years ago.  She found it in her seat pocket and said to Meir, you would be interested in this speech.   It was a Shabbos Drasha from Rabbi Jack Riemer.   I  called him at the time and thanked him for his beautiful speech.  I just called Rabbi Riemer again to thank him for his powerful speech.

 Observation – Yaakov explodes at Lavan, verses 36 – 42,  and notice Lavan’s unrepentant response in Verse 43. 

Read the power of the words in Verses 36 through 42.  It is powerful.  For 20 years Yaakov has said nothing to Lavan.  He took and took and took the abuse.  Finally after suffering the indignity of being powerless in front of his family, as Lavan ransacks through Yaakovs belongings, Yaakov explodes in anger.  He  has held it in for 20 long, hard-suffering years, and 20 years of abuse comes out of Yaakov:

36. And Jacob was angry (livid), and he quarreled with Laban, and he said to Laban, “What is my transgression? What is my sin, that you have pursued me?
37. For you have felt about all my things. What have you found of all the utensils of your house? Put it here, in the presence of my kinsmen and your kinsmen, and let them decide between the two of us
38. Already twenty years have I been with you, and your ewes and she goats have not miscarried, neither have I eaten the rams of your flocks.
39. I have not brought home to you anything torn [by other animals]; I would suffer its loss; from my hand you would demand it, what was stolen by day and what was stolen at night.
40. I was [in the field] by day when the heat consumed me, and the frost at night, and my sleep wandered from my eyes.
41. This is twenty years that I have spent in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your animals, and you changed my wages ten times ten times.
42. Had not the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, been for me, you would now have sent me away empty handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, and He reproved [you] last night.”

After Yaakov finally confronts Lavan, Lavan responds:

43. And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the animals are my animals, and all that you see is mine. Now, what would I do to these daughters of mine today, or to their children, whom they have borne?

Lavan has zero empathy for Yaakov; and says to his son-in-law,  nothing is yours, not your wife, not your kids, not your money.  It is all mine.  Lavan does not have the humility to acknowledge Yaakov; he only lashes back with the arrogance of a man who is corrupt through and through, without a shred of decency.

 Rabbi Jack Riemer looked around his congregation and said.  How many people here have lived the life of Yaakov, where we work for years for a boss who has no appreciation for his employees,  does not compensate properly, makes us work long hours and on our days off.   We work for these people for years negatively affecting our health, or self-worth, our family lives. 


לו  וַיִּחַר לְיַעֲקֹב, וַיָּרֶב בְּלָבָן; וַיַּעַן יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר לְלָבָן, מַה-פִּשְׁעִי מַה חַטָּאתִי, כִּי דָלַקְתָּ אַחֲרָי.

36. And Jacob was angry (livid), and he quarreled with Laban, and he said to Laban, “What is my transgression? What is my sin, that you have pursued me?

לז  כִּי-מִשַּׁשְׁתָּ אֶת-כָּל-כֵּלַי, מַה-מָּצָאתָ מִכֹּל כְּלֵי-בֵיתֶךָ–שִׂים כֹּה, נֶגֶד אַחַי וְאַחֶיךָ; וְיוֹכִיחוּ, בֵּין שְׁנֵינוּ.

37. For you have felt about all my things. What have you found of all the utensils of your house? Put it here, in the presence of my kinsmen and your kinsmen, and let them decide between the two of us

לח  זֶה עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ, רְחֵלֶיךָ וְעִזֶּיךָ לֹא שִׁכֵּלוּ; וְאֵילֵי צֹאנְךָ, לֹא אָכָלְתִּי.

38. Already twenty years have I been with you, and your ewes and she goats have not miscarried, neither have I eaten the rams of your flocks.

לט  טְרֵפָה, לֹא-הֵבֵאתִי אֵלֶיךָ–אָנֹכִי אֲחַטֶּנָּה, מִיָּדִי תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה; גְּנֻבְתִי יוֹם, וּגְנֻבְתִי לָיְלָה.

39. I have not brought home to you anything torn [by other animals]; I would suffer its loss; from my hand you would demand it, what was stolen by day and what was stolen at night.

מ  הָיִיתִי בַיּוֹם אֲכָלַנִי חֹרֶב, וְקֶרַח בַּלָּיְלָה; וַתִּדַּד שְׁנָתִי, מֵעֵינָי.

40. I was [in the field] by day when the heat consumed me, and the frost at night, and my sleep wandered from my eyes.

מא  זֶה-לִּי עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה, בְּבֵיתֶךָ, עֲבַדְתִּיךָ אַרְבַּע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה בִּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתֶיךָ, וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים בְּצֹאנֶךָ; וַתַּחֲלֵף אֶת-מַשְׂכֻּרְתִּי, עֲשֶׂרֶת מֹנִים.

41. This is twenty years that I have spent in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your animals, and you changed my wages ten times ten times.

מב  לוּלֵי אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם וּפַחַד יִצְחָק, הָיָה לִי–כִּי עַתָּה, רֵיקָם שִׁלַּחְתָּנִי; אֶת-עָנְיִי וְאֶת-יְגִיעַ כַּפַּי, רָאָה אֱלֹהִים–וַיּוֹכַח אָמֶשׁ.

42. Had not the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, been for me, you would now have sent me away empty handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, and He reproved [you] last night.”

מג  וַיַּעַן לָבָן וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, הַבָּנוֹת בְּנֹתַי וְהַבָּנִים בָּנַי וְהַצֹּאן צֹאנִי, וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לִי-הוּא; וְלִבְנֹתַי מָה-אֶעֱשֶׂה לָאֵלֶּה, הַיּוֹם, אוֹ לִבְנֵיהֶן, אֲשֶׁר יָלָדוּ.

43. And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the animals are my animals, and all that you see is mine. Now, what would I do to these daughters of mine today, or to their children, whom they have borne?

Toras Chaya Sorah

During the week, no words of Torah hit me on this week’s Torah portion of Chaya Sorah.  However, Shabbos morning, I needed a walk, and decided to walk to Anshe Sholem for health reasons and hear the Torah of the Synagogue.  I ended up walking 4 miles and decided to go to my regular Synagogue to make sure we had a Minyan.  I was able to think about the Torah portion and the following six items is  the result.

1)      Chapter 23, Verse3:

Abraham in addressing the people of Ches said:

ד  גֵּר-וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי, עִמָּכֶם; תְּנוּ לִי אֲחֻזַּת-קֶבֶר עִמָּכֶם, וְאֶקְבְּרָה מֵתִי מִלְּפָנָי.

4 ‘I am a stranger and an inhabitant with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.’

גר ותושב אנכי עמכם: גר מארץ אחרת ונתישבתי עמכם. ומדרש אגדה אם תרצו הריני גר, ואם לאו אהיה תושב ואטלנה מן הדין שאמר לי הקב”ה (לעיל יב ז) לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת:

I am a stranger and an inhabitant with you: [I am] a stranger from another land, and I have settled among you. [Consequently, I have no ancestral burial plot here (Rashbam, Sforno).] And the Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 58:6) [states]: If you are willing [to sell me burial property], I am a stranger, but if not, I will be as an inhabitant and will take it legally, for the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, “To your seed I will give this land” (above 12:7).

Rashi explains the words, “I am a stranger and an inhabitant”.    The first explanation is the simple meaning of text.  However, in explanation two Rashi brings in a Medresh Rabbah that is very difficult to comprehend.  Is this a threat?  Did Abraham actually say this to the inhabitants of Ches that if you do not  agree, I will take the cave of Hamachpelah by force?  This Medresh is inconsistent with the entire dialogue with the inhabitants of Ches in which Abraham treats them with personal humility.

I have no answer for this Medresh, however I would like to suggest  that this Medresh is a   very Zionistic Medresh.  Of course, Abraham never threatened the Bnei Ches.  The Medresh is saying to the world,  especially to Jews, that Israel belongs to the Jews, now and  forever – even when we are not in the land.   When Binyamin Ze’ev – Theodore Herzl told world Jewry that Europe is burning, community upon community should have been set up in Israel, as my Zedi wanted, based on this Verse.

2)  Every year when I read the words “I am a stranger and an inhabitant”; I always think that this is a message to the children of Israel in the diaspora over the last 2,000 years.   Jews always become inhabitants of the land.  We grow up in the culture of society around us, we identify with it, we will join the army; however, we must always realize that at the same time we are strangers.  We have to be loyal to the Torah, set up Yeshiva’s and Kolleleim, we have to understand that we have to be, collectively, a light to the nations.  However, we better have one foot in Israel.  We have to understand that nations change, events change, leaders change, and there may come a time when we have to leave.  Watch again the last 15 minutes of Fiddler on the Roof.   This took place in the 1880s+.  It got worse under communism in 1917.  I repeat. when Binyamin Ze’ev – Theodore Herzl told world Jewry that Europe is burning, community upon community should have been set up in Israel, as my Zedi wanted.

2)      Verses 5 -16:

Verse 9 states: 

That he may give me the Machpelah (double) Cave, which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field; for a full price let him give it to me in your midst for burial property.”


Abraham handled the negotiations skillfully.  He was humble; he never said I want to purchase the land.  He always called it a gift to appeal to the local’s sense of generosity, meaning it  is more than a purchase.  Abraham is saying, it is a favor to me, and in return I want to give you a gift of money.   Abraham also described  the land in verse 9,  “ which is in the end of his field” – meaning it really has no use and it does not break up Ephron’s land.  The Hebrew word is “Ketz” which implies something of no value. He is telling the people of Ches that they are not giving up anything, it cannot be developed, etc.

3)   Chapter 24, Verse 15:

“Now the maiden was very pretty”.  Although we believe that the proper  beauty is  inner beauty – one who has proper manners,  kindness, generosity, and has a Neshamah; however, never forget that physical beauty is important.    As we know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so everyone has the ability to make themselves physically beautiful.

4)  Chapter 24, Verse 30:

The verse describes Lavan approaching Eliezer and states:

וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כִּרְאֹ֣ת אֶת־הַנֶּ֗זֶם     –  23:30.

30. And it came to pass, when he (Lavan) saw the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebecca, saying, “So did the man speak to me, ” that he came to the man, and behold, he was standing over the camels at the fountain.

Notice, the Torah Trop right after the word, V’Yehi, is a Yisef P’sik, which is a stop.  What is this doing here,  as the proper reading for the first line of this verse is one thought. The V’yehi goes along with the next word and it should be read as “and it was when he saw”.

I think the answer is that the word “V’yehi” in usage by the Bible means something bad is happening or going to happen.  I think the Yisef P’sik is telling you and when Lavan saw the wealth of Abraham, it was not good.  V’Yehi – it was bad.  There was jealousy.  A person should not openly display riches.  Evil, jealous, nasty people set their eyes on the wealth and they want to take it away from  you.  Even not an evil person, it can be interpreted as you are trying to show someone up.

5)  Eliezer does a masterful job relating to Rivkah’s family the events and at the end of his narration, both Bethual and Lavan, who are say, this is from God.  However, in Chapter 24, Verse 53 it says:

53. And the servant took out silver articles and golden articles and garments, and he gave [them] to Rebecca, and he gave delicacies to her brother and to her mother.

Rivka gets gold and silver and Lavan gets as Rashi says, fruits of Israel.  What is Eliezer doing.  Lavan gets a few grapes from Israel?  It could be that the fruits of Israel have curative powers and were very valuable, however, it seems that Eliezer blew it.  In fact I believe the Alshiach says that when Bethual saw that Eliezer was giving them these fruits, he wanted to renege on Rivka marrying Yitzchok and  was killed.

The answer as suggested by Rabbi Montel from Sefas that after Eliezer got the agreement from Rivkah’s family and made the Shiddach, Eliezer was rebuking Lavan, trying to impart to him the lesson that it is always not about gold and silver, it is about appreciating life, spirituality, tasting delicious fruits of Israel, things that appeal to the soul.

6)  Rashi on Chapter 25, Verse 6 brings down a Medresh to  explain the gifts that Abraham gave to the children of Ketura was the gift of Tumah, of uncleanliness, of demons.  Abraham, who represented decency to the world and spread the morality of God is giving them uncleanliness.  What is the explanation.  This I have no answer for this question.