Speech on the Second Day of Shavous – June 10th, 2019

I said the following speech at N’elas HaChag Shevous 2019. The Sefer, Siach Sarfei Koddush, Volume 1, page 235 (Bnei Brak 1989) brings down the following Kotzker Vort on Shevous.

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In his second explanation, the Kotzker explains that we say that Shevous is Zman Matan Torasnu  (the day of giving the Torah), and not Zman Kabblas Torsanu (the day of receiving the Torah), because God gave one Torah equally to everyone. But the receiving of the Torah was not equal. It was received differently by each person based on that individual’s level of understanding, his references in life, and his background.

What is the deep meaning of the Kotzker’s Vort? The Kotzker is saying what Rabbi Shochet said, and Boruch Hashem, I explained. There is only one Torah that is understood differently by everyone – similar to a diamond that shines differently based on where you are standing. The Kotzker is saying that every Jew’s understanding is directly connected back to the truth of Torah, one Torah. The Torah has threads that lead outwards into millions of explanations. Knowing this idea and understanding this not only intellectual, but also in your gut, brings internal peace to Israel, because everyone is part of the Emes – Truth of Torah. This is the message of Shavous, as Rashi says that at Har Sinai: the Jewish people camped around the mountain of Sinai like one man with one heart.

As I have said above, Hashkafah, way to live life, and theology are all debatable and there are tremendous fights. Arguing these points leads to bitter disagreement and fighting among Jews Only recognizing their own truth of the Torah when it is just part of the truth.  Whether the Torah is from Har Etzion, Ger, Mir, Aterat Cohanim, the Torah is all Emes.

The most recent time I was in Israel  was in 2015.  I was on a bus headed back to Jerusalem from Ranana. A teenage boy, about 17, was sitting near me and I engaged him in conversation. He was wearing dungarees, a T-Shirt, and running shoes. He was wearing the uniform of Jewish youngsters in Israel: his Tzitzits were out. His parents are from England and we talked. He told me that he is headed back to Yeshiva, which I recall being in Kiryat Arba. He told me that first Seder he is learning Alleu Mitzzius Sh’Lo and second Seder, another Perek in Baba Metzia. I asked him when he will go into the army. He said that he loves learning and that is his priority at this time. I said Mi Kamcha Yisroel – how great are the Jewish people that this boy dressed with a T-Shirt is no different than the boy learning in Mir, and perhaps greater because he will likely join the army and put his life on the line for Klal Yisroel. This is the Kotzker’s and Ahavas Yisroel’s Pshat.

The following is a translation of the Ahavas Shaul’s Maamer on “Tzion our Holy City and the Founding of Mizrachi.”:

The blue is the translation and the black are my comments.

Brcohos 3B mentions King David’s harp that hung over his bed. 

David had a sign indicating when it was midnight. As Rav Aḥa bar Bizna said that Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida said: A (Kinor) harp – lyre hung over David’s bed, and once midnight arrived, the northern midnight wind would come and cause the lyre to play on its own. David would immediately rise from his bed and study Torah until the first rays of dawn.”

The Ahavas Shaul questions – how can a northern wind play a harp.    A harp (lyre)  is played only with a pick and by a person.  It must be that this Gemoro is like  golden apples hidden in a regular money bag – meaning that contained in this Gemoro there is hidden a beautiful message.

(This is such a Litvishe question.  The Chassidim and many others explain the Gemara at its basic meaning, that Dovid’s harp was miraculous.)

Rabbi Shochet continues:

  1. We find by Elisha the prophet that when he got angry and the divine presence departed from him, he would ask for music to be played and the divine presence would return.  The harp represents ‘Hashrashas Hashcina”.

  1. Exile is called night.

  1. Morning references redemption.

  1. In Shir HaShirim it says that King Solomon had sixty warriors surrounding his bed, each holding a sword knowledgeable in battle with his sword at his side.

  1. The bed of a person references his children.

Using these ideas we can understand the hidden meaning in Dovid Hamelech’s harp in the Gemora of Brcohos

The    כנור of David which we see by Elisha brings the divine presence, represents Torah learned at a higher level with the Divine Presence. These thoughts of Torah of Dovid HaMelech, were above the bed of his children,  of  King Solomon who had 60 warriors surrounding him.  The sixty warriors represent 60 Volumes of Talmud Bavli and all of them were knowledgeable in the battle of Torah.  Their main thoughts were to learn our holy Torah.

However, the bed of King David;  his Torah and divine inspiration  contained more than just Torah.  David was on a higher level, the combination of Torah and Kinor, Torah and divine inspiration   What happened to David during his lifetime happened to the Jewish people throughout history.   David  was at death’s door numerous times;

  1. The time that Shaul the king chased after David  and King Shaul was encamped on one side of the mountain with 10,000 men, while David only had 300 men on the other side of the mountain,
  2. So too with the people of K’elah, and
  3. When David had to flee from Avsholem.

It all these times he was closer to death than life.

What did King David do at the times when life was at its darkest, at midnight and the northern (evil) wind blew, threatening to topple Dovid Hamelech? Dovid would not only learn Torah, but he delved into Torah and he worked on the Torah (guided by the Kinor) as we say in the second Bracha of morning Krias Shma – God should place in our hearts to understand and be knowledgeable .  . .  to learn and to teach, to guard, and to establish all the ideas contained within the Torah.  David delved into Torah to bring out the potential which is hidden in the Torah into action, meaning how to act and how to respond to his enemies.  In this way when it was midnight, he used his divine inspiration to bring the morning from the darkness, to go from exile to redemption.

This Gemara is telling us in Brcohos that even when it is the darkest at midnight, when our eyes are darkened and our ears our blocked due to hearing of all the oppression and troubles of our brothers, the Jewish people,  from the land of death which is Russia, which lies to the north of Israel – we have to do what Dovid Hamelech did.  We have to play the Kinor – meaning we have to be guided by divine inspiration, that is not enough to just learn but we must delve into Torah to find the answers to our darkness, and to bring to reality what we pray for at the beginning of davening, that a new light should shine of Zion, and as we say as we stand up in prayer in the Shemonah Esra, that with mercy should we return  to our city, Jerusalem.  And  in Bentching, God should have mercy on Jerusalem.  

Our main purpose is to learn from Dovid Hamelech; whose actions where definitely guided by Torah and do just like him.  Meaning to fight and find ideas and work towards bringing the Jews back to Israel and Jerusalem.

My comments:

  1. The Ahavas Shaul said this in the first part of the 20 century, when the drive to go back to Israel was picking up momentum and this seemed to be the best, and perhaps the only, solution for the troubles of the Jewish people.
  1. The Ahavas Shaul’s  ideas were felt and put into action each on their own level by many great leaders, including my great-great- grandfather, the Pilaver-Kotzker Rebbe, the Netziv,  the Meshech Chochmo, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok HaCohen Kook, the Ger Rebbe,  the Slabodka Yeshiva, and many others.

The Ahavas Shaul continues:2

And therefore the Rov, the Goan, Rabbi Yitzchok Reines TZL established Mizrachi to show that even though we are Zionists, we still follow the dictates of our holy Torah, and not like the Zionist radicals who place  a priority on uprooting our faith, like one radical  spoke at the Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland and said:

What do you think that when we take over our land, we will build a Bais Hamikdash and offer cows and lambs in it.  A (Bais Hamikdash) was needed  two thousand years ago when the world was not yet civilized.  But  now this is nonsense that cannot be.”

Immediately when Rabbi Reines heard this speech, he separated himself from them and established Mizrachi.  Therefore we have to not only pray, but also to be occupied with activities of Torah.   And God should bring upon us  quickly the sunrise, which is our redemption quickly in our days.  Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. The radical said that the world in 1900 was civilized.  The 20th century was the bloodiest ever, with estimates as high as 200,000,000 people killed by Stalin, Hitler, the communists and the Japanese.  I recall a book written on the horrors of the entire 20th century.

  2. Picture in your mind’s eye who was at the original Basel Zionist Congresses.  You had Theodore Herzl, Dr. Max Nordau, Usishkin, Ahad Ha-am and other founders of Zionism, many wearing formal wear.

Rabbi Yitzchok, Yaakov Reines, TZL, Born 1839 – August 20, 1915

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Shabbos – May 25, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend

This Shabbos I had tremendous Siyatah Dishmaya – Divine Providence.  I was in Shul Shabbos morning and I am a pacer.   As I was walking out the Shul at its back entrance to study Daf Yomi in  the back yard, I noticed an old Sefer sitting by the Rabbi’s seat.  I picked it up and was smitten.  I forsake learning Daf Yomi, which set me back 2 Blatt,  to learn and understand the Sefer.   I spent over two hours learning the Sefer.

The name of the Sefer is Ahavas Shaul, printed in Chicago in 1916 by Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet.  He was Rov of a Shul called Anshei Nariditch.  I found the following biographical information on the web:

Shochet issued them (his Teshuvos) between 12 June 1905 and 12 Feb. 1920 while serving as a Rabbi in England, Kansas City (MO), Louisville and Chicago. Most deal with matters of divorce. Some were issued in response to conditions in the various communities in which he served. Others are addressed to Russian, German, British, Belgian and American rabbis. Among the American correspondents are R. Zevi Hirsch Grodzinsky of Omaha.  (Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik mentioned Reb Tzvi Hirsch Grodzinsky in a Sholsh Seuduas speech in 1973.)   R. Dov Baer [Bernard] Abramowitz of St. Louis, R. Joseph Zechariah Rosenfeld of St. Louis, R. Robias Geffen of Atlanta and R. Mordekhai Solomon Siber of Minneapolis. Shochet was born in Old Zagare, Kovno Province, in 1860. He served as rabbi for 14 years in a number of Russian communities before immigrating to Hull, England in 1905. After serving as a rabbi there for one year, he proceeded to America and occupied pulpits in Perth Amboy (NJ), Kansas City (MO), Louisville and finally, in 1916, Chicago. Bookseller Inventory # 005673.

Who knows when this Sefer was last opened and when someone last read Rabbi Shochet’s Torah, let alone spoke it out at a Shabbos meal.  I decided to speak the Torah of Rabbi Shochet at the Shlosh Suedas meal.  Rabbi Shochet lived at 736 S. Marshfield, Chicago.  The Gemora says that when the Torah of a deceased person is read, the lips of the deceased person who wrote and said the Torah moves.  Rabbi Shochet mentions this Gemora in his introduction.

Early in the afternoon I went to my nephew’s house, Yonatan Glenner, to show him and learn from the Sefer.  I was re-reading the introduction and a thunderbolt hit me. In his introduction, Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet said that he  wrote and signed the introduction to his Sefer on the 20th of Iyar 1916.  This Shabbos is the 20th of Iyar (May 23, 1916).  I discovered this Sefer 103 years to the date when the author finished the Sefer.  Wow.   What a Zichus.

When I spoke later Shabbos, I discovered that my nephew, Mayer Chase, knew about Rabbi Shochet and had another one of his books, Tiferas Yedidya, which is on the four portions of the Shulchan Aruch.   Tiferas Yedidya was published in 1920. Rabbi Shochet put in his Haskomos – approbations that he received when his first Sefer came out in 1903.   On Monday of Parshas Yisro 1902, January 27, 1902 Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Hacohen Kook wrote a Haskama.  The Haskamah was written when Rabbi Kook was still Rabbi in Boisk.   Rabbi Kook made Aliyah in 1904.  It is signed, Rabbi Kook. Servant of this Nation of God.

There is also a Haskama from Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky, the Ridvaz, who signed his Haskama on the 19th of Shevat 1903, February 16, 1903.  The Ridvaz writes that he is the Goan, Av Bais Din of Slutzk.  The Ridvaz travelled to Chicago to raise money to publish his Seforim. The Ridvaz was forced to flee Chicago in the middle of the night in 1900 due to problems with Schitah in Chicago.  The Ridvaz’s opponent was Rabbi Album of Mishne Gemoro, the Shul where I daven.  In the Rivdaz’s Haskamah he writes, “I know quite well that the author is a great person, one of the expert Rabbis, but his Mazel caused him to live in a distressful place.”

The third Haskama is from Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Rabinowitz from Yalik. I tried to locate him but am so far unsuccessful.

It is important to not the Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet wrote the below in 1916 when it was very difficult to keep Shabbos.  His first essay on Behar touches upon this difficulty.

Behar:


Vayikra – Chapter 25 – Verse 2:

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהוָֽה׃

Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I give to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the LORD.

The words  לַיהוָֽה וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת means, just like on a regular Shabbos, Shabbos is for God where we have no power to earn a living – yet it protects us and provides support for our families during the six days of work, so I am asking you, וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ, that for six years plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and gather your crops; but the seventh year should be a שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהוָ֑ה – “the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the LORD”. The explanation being that just like Shabbos is completely holy to God because Hashem Yisborach rested from work, so too the seventh year must be holy to God, forbidden to plant, plow, and harvest. The Torah concludes that even though you cease from work; nonetheless if you have faith in Hashem Yisborach, “The Sabbath produce of the land shall be yours to eat” and “even for your animals” because through faith in Hashem Yisborach, Hashem Yisborach will send you a double blessing.

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Schohet continues. Based on this (concept of faith in God) we can answer the question of the Alshich. The Parshah opens with כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם -plural, when all of you come into the land. The Torah then continues in the singular –    שֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃.

The Alshich asks – the Torah should be consistent, either all plural or all singular.  The Ahavas Shaul answers that we can understand it according to the above explanation (which is all about faith in God). How is it possible that a person can keep the commandants of the Seventh year to allow everyone take the fruits of the land in the seventh year that comes to a person him with great effort. Therefore the Torah explains, do not question this commandment (of Shmittah) because the Torah tells us כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ, you (all the Jewish people) received the land of Israel because I gave the land to all of you. As a result all the Jews are partners in the land of Israel.  It is enough for each one of you to work your own fields, prune your vineyards, and you alone gather the crops for six years and not others. However, the beginning of Behar tells us that the Jews are partners in the land because God gave Israel to the entire nation of Israel to settle the land. This partnership manifests itself during the Shmittah year, the seventh year, when anyone can walk into any field and take the produce on any field.  (I may add – this creates a comradery, a sense of responsibility, a partnership)

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet then goes on and discusses the Gemoro on Sanhedrin 91A which brings down the story where the people of Africa brought a lawsuit against the Jews before Alexander the Great. I spent two hours on the last 2 pages of his Torah on this Gemara. It is attached in the Hebrew

 

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet, Introduction to Sefer and Torah on Behar (1)

Week of Parshas Va-era

Sunday – December 30, 2019:

Got up from Shiva for my mother.

Tuesday – January 1, 2019:

Walked along the Lakefront and then went to Anshe Sholom for Mincha/Maariv. Compare the pictures one year apart:

January 1, 2019:
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December 31, 2017
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Thursday – January 3, 2019:
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Took Naftali Glenner for Mincha / Maariv.

Shabbos – Friday night January 4 – 2019:

First Shabbos of the New Year. Ate by the Glenner’s Friday night. Wore my blue suede shoes in honor of the king, Elvis Presley’s birthday.

Saturday – January 5, 2019:

Got up- at 5:00 AM and learned the Sedra. Below are the items I thought about, and comments on the Sedra. I let my house at 8:15 AM, walked to Anshei Sholom and got there at 9:50 AM. Eli met me for Kiddush at the Shul. Went to the Kiddush. We stayed for the guest speaker. At 1:30 PM attended Dr. Leonard Kranzler’s Bible class. Dr. Kranzler is in Florida, so Paul facilitated the discussion.

The following is my Torah on Parshas Va’era:

1) עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם: – Closed Lips:

Chapter 6, Verse 12:

יב. וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר משֶׁ֔ה לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵ֤ן בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֹא־שָֽׁמְע֣וּ אֵלַ֔י וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַֽאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם:

12. But Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “Behold, the children of Israel did not hearken to me. How then will Pharaoh hearken to me, seeing that I am of closed lips?”

What does Closed Lips mean? Standard explanation is Moshe had difficulty talking; he stuttered and spoke with a speech impediment. Moshe attributed his inability to be the messenger because of his speech impediment and no one would understand him.

Obviously by the time of Har Sinai, Moshe overcame this inability to talk and was able to give over Torah to the Jewish people in a clear manner.

Rashi in Verse 13 says – Because Moshe had said, “I am of closed lips, “the Holy One combined Aaron with him to be for him as a speaker and an interpreter.

Rashi is saying that only because Moshe said I am of closed lips did God partner Aaron with Moshe. Moshe could have accomplished his mission even without Aaron.

Chapter 7; Verses 1 and 2 explicitly say that Aaron is the speaker, interpreter.

There is another meaning of Aral Sephasium – having closed lips. It is the inability to answer people, to think on your feet, to deflect criticism.   I think the best of people and situations, I think with Chesed, and people fail to understand where my words are coming from – a good place. I can be insulted and am not able to defend myself meetings I seem to not to be able to answer questions properly and afterwards I stress out and criticize myself thinking. “what and how I should have answered.” I cannot answer people properly when they have questions about the Jewish religion. There was a Seinfeld episode where George stressed out because he could not have the correct retort. I saw a movie with George Clooney where he walked into every meeting confident and always said the right thing. I want to be George Clooney. However, I want to be Rabbi Ben Sugerman. He says a beautiful Daf Yomi Shiur in God’s Shul at BRS in Florida. Rabbi Sugerman’s ability to explain is outstanding. On Chullin 32 and 33, he gave 10 minute introductions to the Blatt. My goal is to be able to explain Torah like Rabbi Ben Sugerman.

2) Reuben, Israel’s firstborn

Chapter 6- Verse 14:

  1. 14. These [following] are the heads of the fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn:

Enoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Karmi, these are the families of Reuben.

Why does the Torah say Reuben was Israel’s first born? We know this. I believe the answer is that Yaakov criticized Reuben and took away the double rights of Firstborn: given to Yosef. Priesthood: given to Levi. Royalty: given to Yehuda. Despite this, we still have to give honor to Reuben as he is still the firstborn. We have no right to judge Reuben and lower his status. We have to honor him and defer to him when appropriate.

In Kotzk, the oldest brother always had the rights to step into the father’s position after the death of the father and be Rebbe. If the firstborn does not want it, then the next brother becomes the leader of the family. When this lack of respect occurs, you have brothers taking each other to court, you have fights, and you have Torah Scholars fighting with each other.

3) Moshe is to give Pharaoh Respect:

In Chapter 6 – Verse 13 Rashi says that Moshe was instructed to give Pharaoh respect. Even thought Pharaoh was evil and Moshe had God’s protection and was Pharaoh’s judge, enforcer, and chastiser, per Rashi on Chapter 7 – Verse 1. Moshe should have treated Pharaoh with utter contempt, however, God said, No, show Pharaoh respect. This is also important to show respect to leaders despite there being evil. Perhaps it is respect for the office and the country. As Rabbi Weinschnieder said, in the Army, you salute the General’s car even if the General is not in the car.

4) And Pharaoh also called his wise men:

Chapter 7, Verse 11:

ן מִצְרַ֛יִם בְּלַֽהֲטֵיהֶ֖ם כֵּֽ חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י וַיִּקְרָא֙ גַּם־פַּרְעֹ֔ה לַֽחֲכָמִ֖ים וְלַֽמְכַשְּׁפִ֑ים וַיַּֽעֲשׂ֨וּ גַם־הֵ֜

The first “גַּם” appears to be extra. I believe the explanation is that is was not enough to show that Moshe’s turning the staff into a snake could be nothing special, Pharaoh had to mock Moshe. He was saying. Moshe your trick is the work of an amateur. Not only can I, Pharaoh, the God King duplicate but Pharaoh also called his wise men and other to show, Moshe, you are insignificant trickster.

5) Pharaoh behaved no different than any despot.President Truman had to drop the H bomb. Emperor Hitherto would never have surrendered. He would have caused the death of millions of Japanese and tens of thousands of American troops. After Gettysburg, there was no way the South could win the war, yet the Civil war went on for 2 more years, killing over 200,000 men.

So the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron: Because Moses had said, “I am of closed lips,” the Holy One, blessed be He, combined Aaron with him to be for him as a “mouth” [i.e., speaker] and an interpreter.

Walked to Anshei Sholom. Got there at 9:50 AM.

Parshas Chai Sarah 2018

November 4, 2018

Week was tough. I do not recall why.

Friday night – November 2, 2018: Ate by the Glenners. Karen and Mattityahu came in. Sholom ate with us and Tzvi came late. I said over a Vort from Aish Kodesh, I heard from Rabbi Efraim Goldberg. It was from Dr. Henry Abramson’s new translation on the Piatzner Rebbe’s Drashes from the Warsaw Ghetto, which puts everything in historical context. Mayer Chase and family came over after their meal. Aviva and David Weinschneider also came over. Got home at 10:30 PM.

Shabbos Morning November 3, 2018: Today is my 32nd Anniversary of my employment with MB. At 8:20 AM walked with the Roberts to escort their son, Dovid Aryeh, to Eichenstein on Devon for his Auf Ruf. Davening was quick. Kiddush was good. Schmoozed away. Walked with Serka, Tzvi, and Mordy to Michael Benjamin’s Auf Ruf at Chabad on Howard. Came during the Kiddush. The Challeh was great. Walked to Rivki’s house.

Torah on Chaya Sarah:

Timing: Age of Avraham: Age of Ishmael: Age of Yitzchak:
Ishmael Born 86 Born  
Yitzchak Born 100 14 Born
Ishmael banished 103 17 3
Avraham visits Ishmael 106 20 6
Avraham re-visits Ishmael 109 23 9
Sarah Dies 137 51 37
Avraham remarries 140 54 40
Yaakov and Eisav Born 160 74 60
Avraham Dies, Ishamel repents 175 89 75
Ishmael Dies a Tzaddik   137 123

This Shabbos I focused on Bereshis Chapter 25, Verse 9, Verse 11, Verse 17, and Verse 18.

1.pngThe Verses say:

יא וַיְהִ֗י אַֽחֲרֵי֙ מ֣וֹת אַבְרָהָ֔ם וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יִצְחָ֔ק עִם־בְּאֵ֥ר לַחַ֖י רֹאִֽי

Rashi explains that God’s blessing to Yitzchak was that God consoled him with the consolations of mourners. Sotah 14a. It seems odd to me that the verse says at its beginning, “And it was after Avraham’s death.” It would seem more appropriate to leave out these words (not like the Sifsei Chachomin.)

This is one of the two times the Torah mentions that God offered consolation. The other was to Yaakov when Dvora, the nursemaid of Rivka, died. Rashi says that Rivka also died. Why only these two times did God pay his respects. When Sarah died at the beginning of this Sedra there is no mention of God’s consolation.

The second part of the Verse states that Yitzchak settled by Be’er Lachai Ro’i. Be’er Lachai Ro’i is mentioned twice before. In the first, Hagar meets the angel and gives this name to the well when she was ejected from Avraham’s house 72 years earlier. The second time was earlier in the Parsha, Chapter 24, Verse 62 – 38 years earlier, when Sarah died. Rashi there says that Yitzchak went to Be’er Lachai Ro’i to bring Haggar back to remarry Avraham. Hagger lived in Be’er Lachai Ro’i. Chapter 24, Verse 62 also informs us that Yitzchak lived in the south, with Rashi adding ‘near the well’. In the above Chapter 25, Verse 11, it says that Yitzchak dwelt by the well. Did Yitzchak now move to the well or did he live by the well for 38 years, since Chapter 24, Verse 62. Odd thing in both is that you would assume that Yitzchak would be living with his father, presumably in Be’er Sheva.

ט. וַיִּקְבְּר֨וּ אֹת֜וֹ יִצְחָ֤ק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל֙ בָּנָ֔יו אֶל־מְעָרַ֖ת הַמַּכְפֵּלָ֑ה אֶל־שְׂדֵ֞ה עֶפְרֹ֤ן בֶּן־צֹ֨חַר֙ הַֽחִתִּ֔י אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י מַמְרֵֽא

Rashi says that we learn from the language of the Torah that Ishmael let Yitzhak lead in the burial of their father that Ishmael repented. The Gemoro Baba Basra 16B adds the word “Be’Yamiv,” in his days, meaning that Avraham was alive to witness the repentance of Ishmael. Beautiful.

Rashi says this is learnt because he let Yitzchak be the lead despite being the older brother. At this time, Ishmael was 89 years old. Ishmael was 17 years old when he left Avraham, 72 years earlier. For 72 years the Torah does not mention Ishmael, and the Torah re-introduces him as righteous.

There is a beautiful Yalkut Shimoni that adds some color to Avraham and Ishmael. Page 56 of the Yalkut, Chapter 95 brings down the following story:

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Ishmael was 17 when he left Avraham . . .  Ishmael sent and took a wife from the daughters of Moab and Asiah was her name. After 3 years, Avraham went to see Ishmael and promised Sarah that he would not disembark from his camel when he got to Ishmael’s house. Avraham gets there at midday and finds Ishmael’s wife home. Avraham asks for Ishmael. Asiah says he went with his mother to bring fruits and figs from the desert. Avraham asks, please give me a little bread and a little water because I am famished from traveling the desert. She answers, I do not have bread or water. Avraham tells her that when her husband returns, tell him that he (Ishmael) should change the threshold because it is not good or proper for him. She tells her husband and, being a son of a wise man, Eisav understands the message and sends his wife away. He marries Fatimah. Another 3 years pass and Avraham again visits Ishmael . Avraham gets there mid day. Again Ishmael is not there. Fatimah brings out food for him. Avraham prays for his son and Ishmael’s house fills up with everything good, money and blessing. Ishmael returns and Fatimah tells him that his father visited. Ishmael understood that Avraham has mercy on him (Avraham still loves his son.), like the verse says that a father has mercy for his sons

Verse 17:

יז.  וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל–מְאַת שָׁנָה וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים; וַיִּגְוַע וַיָּמָת, וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל-עַמָּיו.

In describing the years of Ishmael, the Torah uses the same terminology as by Sarah and Avraham, meaning the word years separate the hundreds, tens, and singles. Rashi does not explain what this references here as he did by Sarah and Avraham. The question remains what does it means that Ishmael at 100 was like he was at 30and at 30 like he was 7. The Da’as Zekamin on 23:1 talks about this.

Rashi also says the word וַיִּגְוַע is a word that references a righteous man. It this comes out that Ishmael was a righteous man from the time of Avraham’s death to Ishmael’s death, 48 years.

Verse 18:

. נָפָֽל ה עַל־פְּנֵ֥י כָל־אֶחָ֖יואַשּׁ֑וּרָ אֲכָ֖הוַיִּשְׁכְּנ֨וּ מֵֽחֲוִילָ֜ה עַד־שׁ֗וּר אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י מִצְרַ֔יִם בֹּֽ :יח

18. And they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which borders on Egypt, going towards Ashur; before all his brothers he dwelt.

The verse employs the word אֶחָ֖יו – brothers. This word in Hebrew is references brotherhood, a common bond, a very positive relationship..

Verse 11:

יא וַיְהִ֗י אַֽחֲרֵי֙ מ֣וֹת אַבְרָהָ֔ם וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יִצְחָ֔ק עִם־בְּאֵ֥ר לַחַ֖י רֹאִֽי:

18. And they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which borders on Egypt, going towards Ashur; before all his brothers he dwelt.

The verse employs the word אֶחָ֖יו – brothers. This word in Hebrew is references brotherhood, a common bond, a very positive relationship..

Verse 11:  יא וַיְהִ֗י אַֽחֲרֵי֙ מ֣וֹת אַבְרָהָ֔ם וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יִצְחָ֔ק עִם־בְּאֵ֥ר לַחַ֖י רֹאִֽי:

Rashi explains that God’s blessing to Yitzchak was that God consoled him with the consolations of mourners. Sotah 14a. It seems odd to me that the verse says at its beginning, “And it was after Avraham’s death.’ It would seem more appropriate to leave out these words (not like the Sifsei Chachomin.) This is one of the two times the Torah mentions that God offered consolation. The other was to Yaakov when Dvora, the nursemaid of Rivka died. Rashi says that Rivka also died. Why only these two times did God pay his respects. When Sarah died at the beginning of this Sedra there is no mention of God’s consolation.

The second part of the Verse states, Yitzchak settled by Be’er Lachai Ro’i. Be’er Lachai Ro’i is mentioned twice before. Hagar meets the angel and gives this name to the well when she was ejected from Avraham’s house 72 years earlier. The second time was earlier in the Parsha, Chapter 24, Verse 62 – 38 years earlier, when Sarah died. Rashi there says that Yitzchak went to Be’er Lachai Ro’i to bring Haggar back to remarry Avraham. Hagger lived in Be’er Lachai Ro’i. Chapter 24, Verse 62 also informs us that Yitzchak lived in the south with Rashi adding near the well. In the above Chapter 25, Verse 11 it says that Yitzchak dwelt by the well. Did Yitzchak now move to the well or did he live by the well for 38 years since Chapter 24, Verse 62. Odd in both is that you would assume that Yitzchak would be living with his father, presumably in Be’er Sheva.

What is the hidden story the Torah is alluding to in this series of verses.

The answer is as follows and it is magnificent:

1) Ismael is kicked out of the home. An Avraham visit Ismael twice and Ishmael realizes that his father still prays for him and still loves him. The Teshuva process starts.
2) Sarah dies and Yitzchak goes to bring back Hagar at Be’er Lachi Ro’i. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that Yitzchak wanted to bring back not only Hagar, but Ishmael. The Teshuva process gets heats up.
3) Hagar marries Avraham. The Teshuva Process is complete.
4) Avraham dies, Ishmael and Yitzhak are brothers in every sense of the word, bury Avraham.
5) Ishmael dies and the Torah tells us that Ishmael is a Tsaddik.
1) The Torah testifies that after Ishmael dies the brotherhood falls apart. Meaning that during Ishmael’s years as a Tsaddik he brought peace to his family. He was like Avraham, a unifying force. Once he dies, there is nothing to hold the family together. The Torah uses the words “brothers” to tell us as long as Ishmael was alive; his righteousness was so strong that his children good to one another and there was good in his world.

Let us recap the questions:
1) Why Nechum Avelim?
2) Why does Yitzhak live by the well, Be’er Lachai Ro’i?
3) Why doesn’t Yitzchak live by his father, assuming Avraham lives in Be’er Sheva?
4) What is the meaning of Verse, “Ishmael was 100 years, 30 years, and 7 years”?
5) Why does the Torah use the words “brothers” in Verse 18?

Observations
6) Ishmael’s Tsidkus started when Avraham was still alive and was a Tsaddik for well over 48 years
7) Avraham lives in Be’er Sheva and Sarah dies in Chevron

Answers:
1) Not sure.
2) Seems that the well was especially spiritual.
3) Do not know.
4) Perhaps – at 100 we know that Ishmael was righteous, perhaps the verse is comparing 100 to 30 is to tell us that Ishmael was righteous or on his path to a Ba’al Teshuva at 30 because of Avraham’s love for him. At 30 like he was 7. Even though Ishmael at 30 was not a perfect son, Avraham loved him like Ishmael was 7. At 7 Ishmael was a good kid and when Avraham looked at Ishmael at age 30, he saw in him a kid of 7, a good kid.
6) The Torah uses the words brothers to tell us as long as Ishmael was alive; his righteousness was so strong that his children were brothers, were good to one another and were good to the world.
7) No idea.

I put together this chart and over the next few years, I will work on refining it.

Where Lived          
Avraham Sarah Haggar/Ishmael Yitzchak
Age 75-100 Chevron Age 65-90 Chevron    
Age 103       Desert of Paran  
Age 101 -126 Land of Pilishtem/ Age 90-125 Land of Pilishtem/ Desert of Paran  
  Be’er Sheva   Be’er Sheva    
Age 126-137 Chevron Age 116-127 Chevron    
Age 137       Be’er Lachai Ro’i Land in the South
         

 

Week of Parshas Toldos: 2018

Week of Parshas Toldos:

November 6, 2018 – missed the weddings of the Benjamins and the Roberts. I had tickets, but I had to present a loan.

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November 7, 2018 – Bicycled to Anshei Sholom for morning prayers. Walked in on a Bris of the Perls. I was dressed with my blanket grey sweats. I was embarrassed to go into the meal with my grungy clothes. After everyone left I talked with the entire Perl family and took two lox sandwiches home with the family’s blessing.

Went to Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s Shiur on Rabbi Yosef Karo at 7:30 PM.

November 8, 2018 – Went to a department meeting in Rosemont. Very emotional.

November 9, 2018 – Bicycled to Anshei Sholom for Shachris. First snowfall and it was cold, 32 degrees. All Friday I was working on my Dvar Torah for Shabbos.

Shabbos – November 10 – Friday night:
Ate by the Glenners with Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman. Wanted to speak but it did not work out.

Shabbos – November 11 – Shabbos Day:
Davened in Bais Mint. At 11:30 went to Bnei Ruvain for Sheva Brochos of Michael and Rifkah Benjamin. I spoke. Said how Rachel’s parent made us a Sheva Brochos in 1980.

My Torah was a continuation of last week’s. Last week I spoke about Ishmael’s Teshuva and he died a Tsaddik. There is a debate in Midrash whether Ishmael did Teshuva, but it seems as if the consensus is that he repented – this is Rashi’s opinion.

Toldos – Chapter 28 – Verse 7 and 8:

וַיַּ֣רְא עֵשָׂ֔ו כִּ֥י רָע֖וֹת בְּנ֣וֹת כְּנָ֑עַן בְּעֵינֵ֖י יִצְחָ֥ק אָבִֽיו :ח

בַּת־יִשְׁמָעֵ֨אל בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֲח֧וֹת נְבָי֛וֹת עַל־נָשָׁ֖יו ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ עֵשָׂ֖ו אֶל־יִשְׁמָעֵ֑אל וַיִּקַּ֡ח אֶת־מָֽחֲלַ֣ת : ט

8. And Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan were displeasing to his father Isaac.

9. So Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Machlas, the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his other wives as a wife.

Did Eisav take Machlas to honor his father and repent or was he still wicked and wanted to deceive his father? Rashi seems to say that Eisev intended to repent.

The Midrash Rabbah 67:13 on these two verses brings down a disagreement. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says that Eisav wanted to do Teshuva. This is why Ishmael’s daughter was Machlas which in Hebrew means forgiveness, that God forgave Eisav sins. This is in line with Rashi on Genesis 36:3.

Rebi Eliezer says that Eisav did not repent and he brings proof from the words “in addition to his other wives”. Meaning he added evil to evil. Eisav had no intent to repent. He kept his evil wives that Yitzhak and Rifkah hated.

However Rashi on Verse 9 uses this verse as follows:

To his other wives – He added wickedness upon his wickedness, for he did not divorce the first ones [From Genesis Rabbah 67:13].

The problem is that his verse is used to say that Eisav never intended to repent. If Rashi holds that Ishmael was a Tsaddik and Eisav wanted to repent, how can he bring down this explanation?

I believe the answer is as follows:

Rashi is consistent. Rashi says that Ishmael was a Tsaddik and his daughter Machlas was good. Eisev did intend to repent. Rashi is coming to answer why Eisav’s repentance didn’t last. The answer is that Machlas was good as long as her father was alive. He died right before the marriage. Eisev did not get rid of his evil wives and since Machlas did not have a pillar of strength to remain good, she was influenced by her evil co-wives and did not remain a positive influence to Eisav.

Torah #2:
I also worked on the first verse in Toldos:

יט. וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּֽוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק:

What does the Hebrew word Toldos mean? I put this chart together which compares 4 times the Torah uses the word Toldos and what the various Reshonim say. See attached.

 

Medrash Rabbah 67-13

Translation of Toldos

 

 

Shabbos Parshas Hazeinu

September 22, 2018

Yom Kippur is over.  Time for Succos. Chazzan Silber is long but I enjoy his Davening. Had a tough week. September 18th, Erev Yom Kippur, was my 65th Birthday and I was not in a good mood. I did not respond to any well wishers.

On Thursday I picked up my mother-in-law from the airport. On Friday I was exhausted and slept for 1.5 hours.

Shabbos morning I got up at 7:30 AM and learned two Blatt of Daf Yomi at Mishne Ugmoro. At 9:30 I walked out of Mishna Ugmoro to go to KINS for Jacob Pick’s Bar Mitzvah. A Hatzlah ambulance on its way to Swedish Covenant Hospital raced by me. I was worried that my mother was in the ambulance and walked to the Glenners to make sure my mother was home. She was, and I stayed with her for about an hour, talking to her, singing, and I gave her some water.

Afterwards walked to Jacob Pick’s Bar Mitzvah at KINS. It was nice to see Jacob performing beautifully at the Bar Mitzvah. He has turned into a nice young man. We were there at his Bris at Kins. We had the Bris meal in the KINS Sukkah. Sidney spoke that his newly born son is an answer to the Nazi’s desire to destroy the Jewish people.

Got there at Mussaf. Even then I schmoozed before I walked into Shul during Kedushah. Sidney Pick was davening Mussef. I was excited to be at KINS. I was so pumped up that I flew through Davening. I was able to finish Shachris starting by Modim of Mussaf to right after Adon Olem. Sidney gave me opening the ark for Ane’im Zemiros. Met Nosson Lederer, Micah Gruber’s son-in-law. Micah’s health is weak. I told Rabbi Lederer that I attended his father-in-law’s Daf Yomi Shiur at Brisk when it was on Peterson. He gave the Shiur on Yom Kippur at the break. We were learning Yevomas. As Rabbi Gruber was giving the Shiur, he dozed off and his head fell on the Gemara. We waited until Rabbi Gruber woke up. I told Rabbi Lederer to say hello to his boss, Rabbi Hillel Mandel. I told him to tell Rabbi Mandel the following:


This week’s Parsha starts off א הַֽאֲזִ֥ינוּ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וַֽאֲדַבֵּ֑רָה וְתִשְׁמַ֥ע הָאָ֖רֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי 1 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!

Rashi says that Moshe is calling on the heaven and earth to testify against the Jewish people when the Jewish people go astray. Very dark.

As an antidote we can understand these words differently. “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak about the greatness of the Jewish people. I will testify in the heavens and on earth of great things done by Jews towards one another and for humanity. People do little favors for others that are huge that can change a world, a life. Whether it is a smile, picking up and paying dinner for someone in need, giving a person at a bus stop a ride, being a Shomer for a friends relative, or just being there. I have seen greatness and I plan, after 120 years, to testify about what they did.


Went to the Kiddush and played Jewish geography. I was on my game Went to the meal. It was a baseball theme. Sat at the same table with the Lazovskys. The Bar Mitzvah boy spoke beautifully. Sidney and Sharon both spoke emotionally and we were moved by their speeches.

Sharon Pick’s Uncle Jack lives in Delray Beach right near Glick’s and davens in the Orthodox Shul (not the Chabad Shul) in the same strip mall as Glicks. He too noticed the price changes at Glicks. He knows my cousin Carol (and Howard). Sharon’s cousins live in Hollywood, Florida.

I had the following speech prepared that I did not give.


I first met Sidney in September 1974 at Brisk Yeshiva located in the Mishne Ugmoro building. I was stuck on the understanding of a Gemora. I walked downstairs to the basement and there was Sidney Pick learning with Louis Lazovsky. I asked them my question. I think they looked at me if I was in outer space. I still have a vivid memory of that meeting, liked it happened yesterday. That started a friendship that has endured over the years. Sidney’s father was the weekday Gabbai at Bnei Ruvain and I was very impressed. In 1981 I bought a home and needed a Sukkah. Sidney was getting rid of his wooden 4 panel Sukkah and replacing it with a new canvass Sukkah. I took his old one and incorporated his 4 panels into my Sukkah of 8 panels. The Pick Sukkah was painted green so I always knew which ones I inherited from Sidney which I cherished. The other advantage was that his Sukkah panels were 6’9”, so when I bought additional panels I cut them down to 6’9”. This way it was easier to build the Sukkah vs. the traditional 8 foot panels. Since it was lighter and not as tall, it was easier to carry and maneuver the panels into place. In 1983 my son Sholom was born the night after Yom Kippur day. Sholom’s Shalom Zacher was the first night of Succos in my Sukkah. I was much honored that Sidney’s father, Rabbi Yaakov Pick, came to honor my family and attended the Shalom Zacher. I clearly remember him sitting next to me with joy.

By the way Jacob, your grandfather was a Sox fan, not a Yankees fan.


At the meal there was a tray of baseball themed giant vanilla cookies, and little packages of Skittles and Oodles. I took two each and three baseball cookies. I have become the old man who is always taking food from Simchas. My kids are forever embarrassed, but most of what I take gets thrown away. The following is what my food re-cycling accomplished.

I walked into the Shul for Mincha. There was a little girl looking sad. With the permission of the kid’s father, I gave her a package of Skittles and Oodles. Her frown turned into a smile. Her father was Rabbi A. Rovner who is a Rebbe at the Veitzner Chedder. I never met him before and told him to hug Rabbi Hillel Mandel.

When I got home, I gave one of my two granddaughters a pack of Skittles and the second Oodles which made them happy. My son-in-law is a Skittles fan and was able to grab a handful. The baseball themed cookies were a big hit. Only Karen appreciates my hubris – hubris in a good way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 17 Year Phone Call – Rabbi Leibel Korf

Chabad of Los Feliz
Arvus of Love

September 7, 2018:

I received a call from Rabbi Leibel Korf of Las Feliz (a neighborhood in LA, part of the Hollywood Hills). Refer to my post of February 18, 2018 – Chabad of Los Feliz: A Celebration of a Dream Come True.  I donated a Mezuzah to their fund raising campaign and he was calling me to thank me for the donation. I think he only vaguely remembered me. I reminded Rabbi Korf of the great kindness he showed me during Thanksgiving weekend 2001.  I was able to communicate my joy that he called me and told him about that weekend I spent as a guest in his house. What a great opportunity to lighten up his Rosh Hashana.

One week earlier, Labor Day weekend I was in Florida to visit my daughter and to attend the Greenbaum triplets Bar Mitzvah.  We flew on Thursday night and arrived at Shoshana’s house at 2:30 AM Friday morning. I had to take Shoshana to work and her daughter Tiferet to school so I did not have time to daven.  When I got home my wife wanted to go shopping for Shabbos, to Glicks in Delray Beach on Atlantic Avenue. I decided that I would daven in the parking lot. However, once I was there I remembered that there is a Chabad Shul adjacent to the parking lot.  My Aunt Sarah davens there (her kids are the Benjamins in Chicago) and my cousin Carol, at times, davens at Chabad. To my pleasant surprise, the Shul was open and I davened. The Rabbi walked in and I said hello. The Rabbi is Rabbi Sholom Ber Korf, a first cousin to Rabbi Leibel Korf.  I told Rabbi Sholem Ber what his cousin did for me. While I was talking to Rabbi Leibel Korf, I texted him the picture with his cousin and me.

I was ecstatic as I was able to again to thank Rabbi Leibel Korf, 17 years later, remind him of his Chesed, and give him regards from his cousin.

On Shabbos I spoke at the Glenners:  Devorim Chapter 29, verse 11 says “to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions.”   I asked, what is this covenant? Rabbi Schnuer Zalmen Twerski said that the Ohr Hachaim explains that the covenant is one of “Arvus”, responsibility for one Jew to another.  This changes the Jews from individuals to a nation as it says in Verse 12 – “to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be Your God as he promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  

Rabbi Twerski told me that he normally does not learn the Ohr Hachaim, however on Friday morning he had to sub a class and one boy did not have a study partner.   Rabbi Twerski opened up a Chumosh and learned the Ohr Hachaim on Arvus, and was able to answer my question on Shabbos.

I added onto the Ohr Hachaim of Arvus – responsibility of one Jew to another – that the novelty of the Lubavitcher Rebbe was love.  The traditional understanding in history has always been that one Jew has to rebuke another Jew. The novelty of the Lubavitcher Rebbe was that he introduced Arvus with love, with kindness, with respecting every Jew and being there, connecting the Jewish people to one another.  

Shabbos Parshas Shimini – April 13 -14, 2018

  • Sheloshim for Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski
  • Yahrzeit for the Yunge Bubbi- 1 Rosh Chodosh Iyar
  • The Legacy of Nadav V’Avihu

Sheloshim for Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski

This Shabbos is the Sheloshim for our dear Uncle, Avraham Mordechai Janowski.  His parents, Eliyahu and Shoshana Bracha Janowski, had 4 children; Kelcha, Simon (my father-in-law), Sam, and the youngest son, Reb Avraham Mordechai.  His kids, Rachel and Aryeh Benjamin, made a Kiddush for their father at Bnei Ruvain. I davened at Bnei Ruvain in honor of my uncle. I took Naftali with me.  Of course Naftali disappeared and came back right before the opening of the ark. And of course, when the ark was about to be opened, Naftali zoomed up to the ark and opened it.  Since Naftali was born, there was a new condition in the world. Naftali has first rights to opening the ark in the entire world, even if someone else was given the honor and paid for it

The Kiddush was sumptuous, including sushi salad.  Aryeh Benjamin spoke beautifully about his father in law.  He praised his wife, Rachel, for her dedication to her father.  

I spoke about Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski, and then made a Siyum on Meschita Avodah Zarah.  I felt a kinship to him. He and his wife graciously made a Shevah Brochos for me when I married Serka in May 1980.  I was impressed by his family. They had a very nice suburban home on Cactus Drive in Toronto in the Bnei Torah neighborhood.  I was (and some say, still) a ghetto Jew.  My family and I lived in an apartment in the city. We were not upwardly mobile and did not move to the suburbs with the majority of Jews, primarily secular Jews.  I would visit Reb Avraham Mordechai when I would go into Toronto. I did not realize his name was Avraham Mordechai. Avraham Mordechai is a major Gerrer name as it is the name of the oldest son of the Chidusshei Harim.  The Janowski family in Europe was Gerrer Chassidim, so it is very lively that he was named for the Chidusshei Harim’s son (or the Imrei Emes).

Shalosh Seudas Meal – The Legacy of Nadav V’Avihu

I spoke at the Shalosh Seudas meal.  I dedicated my Torah to:

  • The Sheloshim of my uncle Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski
  • The 85th Yahrzeit of my mother’s Bubbe, known as the Yunge Bubbi.
  • To a speedy recovery for my mother who was in the hospital

When I first learned about Nadav and Avihu, I had a hard time with the unfairness of it all – to his father, Aaron, and the Jewish people.  Is this the legacy of the Jewish people that even in a time of great joy, we have to have tragedy? What was their sin that had to be a tragedy?   The simple answer is that, imagine at the inauguration of a President in the US, a soldier breaks protocol and does something on his own. That soldier would be reprimanded by either being  put in the brig, reduced in rank, or even discharged from the Army. If it happened with a King, that soldier would in all likelihood be executed on the spot. What Nadav and Avihu did was equally as bad.  

Let us understand the event in depth.  The following Verses discuss the death of Nadav and Avihu and its  aftermath.

Vayikra – Chapter 10:

Verse 1 tells us what Nadav and Avihu did –

And Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.                                             

Verse 2 tells us how they died:

And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Verse 3 tells us what Moshe told Aaron and that Aaron was silent, he accepted what happened:

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ “And Aaron was silent.

Verse 4 and 5 talk about removing the dead bodies –

  1. 4. And Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Draw near; carry your brothers (actually first cousins) from within the Sanctuary, to the outside of the camp.
  2. 5.  So they approached and carried them with their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had spoken.

Verse 6 and7  tells Aaron and his remaining g sons that they should not go into mourning –

  1. 6.  And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, “Do not leave your heads unshorn, and do not rend your garments, so that you shall not die, and lest He be angry with the entire community, but your brothers, the entire house of Israel, shall bewail the conflagration that the Lord has burned
  2. 7.  And do not go out of the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, lest you die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you.” And they did according to Moses’ order.

Verse 7 – 11 warns Cohanim not to walk into the Ohel Moad after drinking wine.

Verse 12 goes back to the story of the dedication of the Mishkan.

Nadav and Avihu’s sin:

Aaron sees his dead sons.    Aaron is beyond words, The Ranban says the Aaron is weeping loudly.  At that moment Aaron was agonizing over the following:

1)  He sees his two sons’ dead.  

2)  He also sees his sons ignore the two great leaders, their uncle and father, Moshe and himself.   Not only that, they walked into the Mishkan after drinking wine. He is aghast.

Rashi on Verse 2 brings down two opinions. 1) Rebbe Eliezer who says that they decided a question of Jewish law themselves and did not go to their leaders, Moshe and Aaron.  2) Rebbe Yishmoel says that Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan after having drunk wine.

3)  He blames himself.   He feels he failed his kids.

Rashi on Verse 12 says that at as result of his sin by the golden calf, all of Aaron’s 4 sons were to die as punishment.  Moshe prayers helped to save two of them.

4)  Aaron   is worried that even his remaining two sons would die.

In Verse 3 Moshe consoles Aaron and Rashi eloquently explains:

‏וגו‎‎‎הוא אשר דבר ה:    ‎ THIS IS WHAT GOD SPOKE, etc. — Where had He spoken this? In the statement (Exodus 29:43), “And there I will be met by the children of Israel and the Tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory (בכבודי).” Read not here בִכְבוֹדִי, “by My Glory” but בִּמְכֻבָּדַי, “through My honoured ones” (Zevachim 115b). “

Moses here said to Aaron:    “ אָחִי אַהֲרֹן” –  “Aaron My brother!”  with all the love of one brother to another – do not agonize over the circumstances and death of your sons –

“I knew that this House was to be sanctified by those who are beloved of the Omnipresent God and I thought it would be either through me or through thee; now I see that these (thy sons who have died) are greater than me and than thee!” (Leviticus Rabbah 12 .

Aaron – your sons were  great people, greater then us two.  The death of your two sons was preordained by God, their death had to happen at this time.   Do not focus on our and their shortcomings, we are all human. What happened is Gods plan.

Aaron accepts Moshe’s words and is consoled as he silences himself.    

Nadav is an accepted Jewish name.

Rashi on Verse 4 says that Moshe told Aaron’s nephews to remove the dead bodies, as not to disturb the joy of the dedication of the Mishkan.  The Mishkan and its deduction was a great moment for the Jewish people and  the Jewish people. The Mishkan is God’s place in this world. The acceptance by God and bringing his presence into the Mishkan is evidence that the sin of the golden calf was forgiven.   Rashi In effect is saying the death of Nadav and Avihu in Gods plan is not a tragedy. in fact the Nadav and Avihi are rejoicing as their souls ascend heavenward towards God. If I may add, the same way we believe that those that were martyred in the holocaust, were embraced by God as their souls rose heavenward.   Moshe understands and relates to Aaron that Nadav and Avihu in the next world are in joy realize they were integral to building and dedicating the Mishkan, therefore remove their bodies and let the joy continue. If I have the Chutzpah to suggest the martyrs of the holocaust were integral to creating a State of Israel and the building of Torah both in Israel and America.
During the week of Pesach Shenei I was by the Shul in Buckingham and Rabbi Unger spoke between Mincha and Maariv.  Rabbi Unger mentioned a Chidusshei Harim. Pesach Shenei is discussed in Numbers 9:6-13. Mishael and Elzaphan want desperately to do a Korban Pesach and go to Moshe and Aaron expressing   their desire to serve God like the rest of the Jews. Verse 8 says:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֖ם משֶׁ֑ה עִמְד֣וּ וְאֶשְׁמְעָ֔ה מַה־יְּצַוֶּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לָכֶֽם:

The Rim focuses on the last work in Verse 8 –  לָכֶֽם:.
Moshe says, what God will answer “you”, how will He respond to your strong wish to get closer to God.   The Rim continues and says that Hashem created a new law just for them. There is a make up Pesach sacrifice for them.  This is something we find no where else in the Torah. This was enacted solely because of the desire for Mishael and Elzaphan for closeness to God.  Perhaps this is the answer to Nadav and Avihu. Nadav and Avihu wanted to feel closeness to God. However, they decided for themselves how to get closer to God.  Our spiritual needs cannot be met by innovating against the Torah. Mishaal and Elzaphan wanted the same close spiritual connection to God. In contrast to their cousins, they went to their leaders to Moshe and Aaron and said we want to feel this closeness to God; we want to bring a Pesach Sacrifice.

 

Shabbos Parshas Vayikra

March 18, 2018

This Shabbos at Mishne Ugmoro we celebrated Chazzan Silber’s 90th birthday. It is our merit to daven with Chazzen Silber. Chazzen Silber davened Hallel and Musaf. Mayer Silber, his son, davened Shacharis. The Silbers sponsored a Shabbos meal. I sat with the Glenners, Naphtali, Mayer (my nephew), my mother, and Nina. The celebration lasted until 2:30 PM.

The following is my speech honoring Chazzen Silber.


Chapter 1, Verse 2 says:

ב דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם אָדָ֗ם כִּי־יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה מִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ וּמִן־הַצֹּ֔אן תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ אֶת־קָרְבַּנְכֶֽם

2. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.

Rashi brings down the Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 2:7 that asks:
Why does the Torah use the word אָדָ֗ם vs. the more common Hebrew word of אִ֗ישׁ. It alludes to Adam, the first man, and teaches us:  just as Adam, the first man, never offered sacrifices from stolen property since everything was his, so too you must not offer sacrifices from stolen property.

There is an obvious question – why would we need a lesson to teach us not to bring a Korban –sacrifice from stolen property. This should be obvious. The Mishkan represents Gods place on earth and it is a place where man connects to God. We are not allowed to cut the stones of the Mizbeach – Alter – by using a knife, because metal is an instrument of death. Why would you think that one could and would bring a Korban from stolen property?
The second answer of the Midrash to explain the use of the term אָדָ֗ם is

דָּבָר אַחֵר, אָדָם, זֶה לְשׁוֹן חִבָּה וּלְשׁוֹן אַחֲוָה וּלְשׁוֹן רֵעוּת, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ
הוּא לִיחֶזְקֵאל בֶּן אָדָם, בֶּן אֲנָשִׁים כְּשֵׁרִים, בֶּן צַדִּיקִים, בֶּן גּוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים, בֶּן
שֶׁמְבַזִּין אֶת עַצְמָן עַל כְּבוֹדוֹ שֶׁל מָקוֹם וְעַל כְּבוֹדָן שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל יָמָיו

The Midrash Rabbah HaMivoer explains this seemingly difficult Midrash. The word אָדָ֗ם is a reference to God, as we see in Yechezkel Chapter 1, Verse 26.

כו וּמִמַּ֗עַל לָֽרָקִ֙יעַ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עַל־רֹאשָׁ֔ם כְּמַרְאֵ֥ה אֶֽבֶן־סַפִּ֖יר דְּמ֣וּת כִּסֵּ֑א וְעַל֙ דְּמ֣וּת הַכִּסֵּ֔א דְּמ֞וּת כְּמַרְאֵ֥ה אָדָ֛ם עָלָ֖יו מִלְמָֽעְלָה:

“Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance
like sapphire; and on top, upon this semblance of a throne, there was the semblance of a
human form.”

We see that the highest level for God is referred to as אָדָ֛ם . It says in Bereshis, Chapter 1, Verse 26, “Let us make אָדָ֛ם in our image, after our likeness. First man, Adam, was 100% connected to God, perfection, representing the fulfillment of creation. This is the explanation of the Gemorah in Yevomos Page 61A, that someone who keeps all of Gods commandments is a אָדָ֛ם . אָדָ֛ם is a higher level of life. It represents one who is close to God, does all the Mitzvos and learns Torah. Since he cleaves to God, God in return uses an expression of love, brotherhood, and friendship.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch defines Adam expansively, the Verse in question starts off with a limitation saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and explain it to them: then uses the phrase – :אָדָ֛ם – if any man of you would bring an offering to God”. Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains, “Firstly, the subject, אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ – – children of Israel is extended by אָדָ֛ם – at the very portal of the laws given for the Jewish Temple, an inscription is made which opens this Temple to all men – not exclusively to Jews. Every human being can bring his offering here”. Rabbi Hirsch was a Universalist. He expresses the grandeur of the Jewish people, Jews are citizens of the world and we are a place of morality, we are put on this world to not only be good to Jews but to be good to humanity, to be a light unto the nations.

We have two different, seemingly conflicting interpretations of אָדָ֛ם . It can mean both, Man as being Godly, keeping Gods commandments, and cleaving to God, generally reserved for Jews who fully keep the Torah and Mitzvos and thus cling to God. It can also mean humanity.

Chazzan Silber embodies both definitions of אָדָ֛ם . He is a citizen of the world, singing opera, being a top insurance agent, lecturing in front of over 1,000 agents on various insurance products. Has a close relationship to non-Jewish relatives. At the same time he is close to God. He talks about Gods love for the Jewish people, is our Chazzan for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper. Chazzan Silber speaks every Shabbos. He is one of the top experts on America on Kabbalah and Chassidus. He comes from great people. His ancestors for generations were Rabbis, Torah scholars, and holy people. His father was Rosh Chazzannim in Hungary. When Chazzan Silber davens on Shabbos Mevorchim, and say the Yehi Ratzon, he uses his father’s composition. Imagine what it means to Chazzan Silber. They play it in Israel on public radio on the Friday of Shabbos Mivorchim and was able to sing it live last year. Chazzan Silber is our connection to Europe. After I once spoke about Theodore Herzl, Chazzan Silber told me that in 1949, when the bodies of Theodore Herzl and his wife were being reburied in Israel, the bodies were initially brought to the only remaining Shul in Austria, Stadttempel Synagogue. Chazzan Silber was the Chazzan and chanted the Kal Maalah Rachamin for Herzl. Wow. Living history. I used a story he told about his grandson to explain the Kotzker Rebbe.

Parshas Va’era


SHABBOS PARSHAS VA’ERA:

January 12 and 13, 2018

Nachlas Tzvi by Rabbi Meshulam Tzvi Gross, TZL

Hamelitz Benataim by Rabbi Tzvi Fishbane

On Friday January 12, 2018 I sent out the following e-mail to the Rabbis and other I have corresponded with in the past. However, on Shabbos, I spoke, and my speech is after this e-mail. See how I developed what I said below:

From: Mitch Morgenstern
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2018 12:56 PM
To: Mitch Morgenstern
Cc: Mitch Morgenstern
Subject: Vort from Rabbi Meshulaim Tzvi Gross, TZL

Rabbis:

I am trying to understand the attached Vort and I apologize for not being articulate on the subject as it is swirling in my head. Have a Good Shabbos and I would like to thank everyone in advance for allowing me to e-mail you.

About 15 years ago I was siting at a wedding and started talking to Reuben Gross from Teaneck, NJ. He mailed me his father’s Sefer. I have attached the face page and the picture of the Mechaber. Over the years I have looked at the Sefer. In this week’s Sedra I am drawn to the attached Vort. What does it mean that they were like sojourners even in Canaan? How did this change their actions? I heard a class this week from Rabbi Wolkenfeld on the life of Dr. Sigmund Freud and his connection to the Jewish people. Did Dr. Freud always feel like an outsider because of the reality built into the cosmos that Jews will always remain separate, and that we have to embrace it just like the Avos did.

The reality is that it is natural for people to want to feel part of the country they live in and be part of the culture. This weekend I will watch some of the football games. I have studied the battle of Gettysburg. Is this opposite of feeling like a sojourner in America?

Rabbi Goldberg – thank you for the Shiur this week. In the last Possuk of last weeks Sedra, (Chapter 6, Verse 1) Hashem’s initial reaction says “Vayomer” and not V’Yidaber. Even though according to Rashi, Moshe is being punished, Hashem does not speak to Moshe harshly. I do like (prefer) the Kli Yakor’s explanation. When I read the Passuk without Rashi, it always seemed to me as if Hashem is semi-apologizing or maybe saying to Moshe you are right and now you will see how I will save the Jews.

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On Shabbos at Kiddush I mentioned Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s class on Dr. Sigmund Freud.  Chazzen Silber said the Dr. Freud was one of us, meaning his Neshama was Orthodox, although his lifestyle was not.  He mentioned that the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe met with Dr. Freud.

Click to access Sigmund_Freud_and_the_Lubavitcher_Rebbe.pdf

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

SPEECH AT THE SHOLUS SEUDOS MEAL ON JANUARY 13, 2018:

1) I first spoke my last comment in the above e-mail. In Chapter 6, Verse 2 God speaks to Moshe harshly, but is not angry. However, the Possuk before, Verse 1, does not say the God spoke to Moshe harshly. However, you have Rashi saying on Verse 1 that Moshe was punished. I do not have a clear Pshat. I did add that when Moshe said, Why did You do bad to the people, why did you send me”, Moshe was perhaps also saying something else. I told the Jews that I am here to take them out of Egypt and it got worse. This is the Jews first encounter with Moshe. Things did not get better, but get worse. This first impression will live with the Jews forever. Whenever Moshe would say things will be good, the Jews would never be sure, they would be skeptical. First impressions count.

2) I said over Rabbi Meshulim Tzvi Gross’s Vort on Verse 4.

ד וְגַ֨ם הֲקִמֹ֤תִי אֶת־בְּרִיתִי֙ אִתָּ֔ם לָתֵ֥ת לָהֶ֖ם אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן אֵ֛ת אֶ֥רֶץ מְגֻֽרֵיהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־גָּ֥רוּ בָֽהּ:
4. And also, I established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned.

I passed out my above e-mail and attachments and read Rabbi Meshulim Gross’s words. The consensus of opinion was that the Avos remained humble. Although they lived in their own land, they never closed themselves off from the world. They knew that it is their job tis o spread goodness in the world.

3) I spoke out how to understand Verse 5 using Rashi.

ה וְגַ֣ם | אֲנִ֣י שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי אֶת־נַֽאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַֽעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם וָֽאֶזְכֹּ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי
5. And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant.

The covenant mentioned in Verse 5, is not the same covenant mentioned in Verse 4.

Verse 4 says I entered into a covenant with the Avos to bring the Jews to the land of Canaan. The “and also” of Verse 5 does not mean therefore (because of the promise to bring the Jews to the land of Canaan) I have listened to the cries of the Israelite’s in Egypt .

No, Verse 5 says, Because of the cries of the Israelites, it is now time for me to remember the covenant promised to Avrohom at the “Bris Ben Basarim” that I will judge the nation that will enslave the Jewish people. Meaning because of the cries it is time to free the Jews and listen to that covenant..

4) I spoke out the meaning of the 4 expressions of redemption. The Sepurno is the most logical Pshat and the one we would say. Rashi seems to say like the Ranban.

1) וְהֽוֹצֵאתִ֣י Sepurno – When the plagues started, the slavery ended.

Ranban – taking the Jews out of Egypt

2) וְהִצַּלְתִּ֥י

Sepurno – Leaving Egypt – at Ramsas when they crossed over the border.

Ranban – The Jews in Canaan will not be a vassal state. Meaning the       Egyptians will not have domain on the Jews even when the  Jews  have their own land.

3) וְגָֽאַלְתִּ֤י

Sepurno – Drowning the Egyptians at the Yam Suf. Destruction of the Egyptian army.

Ranban – God will judge (and punish) the Egyptians until they say, we give
the Jews a redemption of our souls, because the meaning of Geulah is
like a sale (mentioned by sale of fields and houses in Israel at the
end of Vayikra). The meaning of “we give to the Jews as
redemption for our lives,” means the money and clothes. I
believe the Ranban is explaining the understanding of “and then they
will leave with great wealth” like I did last year. For an
enslaved person to truly feel free is 1) the enslavers are properly
punished, and more importantly; 2) that the enslavers apologize
and recognize what they did was wrong. When the Jews asked for
money and clothes, the Egyptians said, we apologize for what we did
and the money is yours. You Jews earned it for working for 210
years.

4) וְלָֽקַחְתִּ֨י      When you were at Mount Sinai and accept the Torah. Both the Sepurno and Ranban.

5) Chapter 6, Verse 26:
Rashi says Moshe and Aaron were equal. Rabbi Goldberg asked, Moshe was a bigger Prophet. Rabbi Goldberg mentioned Reb Moshe Feinstein , that they were equals in that the each completely fulfilled their purpose in life. Of course Moshe was bigger and the greatest prophet, but both fulfilled their destiny and mission in life.

6) Chapter 6, Verse 15:
Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel says the Levi lived for 137 years and saw his great grandchildren, Aaron and Moshe the redeemers of Israel. The question is obvious. Levi died 36 years froe Moshe and 33 years before Aaron. Levi never saw Aaron or Moshe.

This question is asked in the Sefer “HaMealitz Benataim”, a translation of Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel into Hebrew and an explanation of the Targum Ben Uziel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_ben_Uzziel

The Sefer “Hamelitz Benataim was written by Rabbi Tzvi Fishbane who lives in Chicago. His son-in-law, Aaron Karman was at the table when I spoke.

Rabbi Fishbane in his Sefer answers the question based on Rabbi Fishbane’s nephew, Dovid Katz.. Based on the Sepurno on Verse 12 that Levi lived longer than all his brothers, taught his grandchildren to understand and teach, and so did Kehas and Amrom, They taught their children greatness resulting in the two great leaders of Israel, Moshe and Aaron.

Based on the Sepurno , perhaps this is the meaning of the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel, that the education of Levi was evident in Moshe and Aaron, it is as if Levi saw them and taught them.