Toronto Redux – November 7 – 11, Veterans Day Weekend 2019

Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha

My Bar Mitzvah Parsha – 1966

 

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Monday – November 4, 2019:

Woke up late and ended up davening at Chodorov.  I was rewarded for my tardiness. I realized that the person who was leining also leined 53 year ago at my Bar Mitzvah at Rabbi Isaac Small’s Shul on Lawrence Avenue. It was Rabbi Avrohom – Allen Isenberg who was about 18 years old at the time.  He only shaved once a week as an 18 year old and now his beard is quite fully grown.

Thursday – November 7, 2019:

Left at 10:00 AM driving to Toronto with the wife and two of my son’s, Sholom and Tzvi.  Arrived in Toronto at 10:00 PM.  

Friday – November 8, 2019:

Went to Shul at 8:00 AM Went to Daf Yomi.  Too fast. Afterwards sat down to learn. I met Larry Gladstone.  We talked for about an hour about kids and other matters. Met Avi Janowski, who is in Kollel at the BAYT.  Told him my Torah. I spoke to him for another hour on Sunday and discovered he is a Green Bay Packer fan and knows everything Green Bay.

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In the afternoon I set up shop at the desk and learned Daf Yomi.

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Shabbos – Friday Night November 8, 2019:

Walked with Sholom and Tzvi to Shul.  Got there when they were already starting Maariv.  Introduced Sholom to Rabbi Korobkin.  

Shabbos  meal was great.  It was nice being with my mother in law,. Serka’s great nephew Shimmy ate with us. He learns at Ohr Chaim in Clanton Park.  Nice kid. After the meal I walked him home, stayed there for about an hour talking Torah to Mordy.  I discussed the Kotzker Rebbe with him and corrected his misconceptions about the Kotzker. I had some great egg rolls.

Shabbos morning – Saturday 9, 2019 – What a great Shabbos

Woke up at 4:00 AM  in the morning and learned Chumosh.  I did not have my Mikros Gedolas. I found Chok L’Yisroel from the Zedi, the Holy Jew, Rabbi Yehuda Leibush Noble.  My son, Tzvi Yehuda Leibush, is named after him. What Siattah Dishmaya. I learned from the same Sefer our Zedi learned from and held.

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I focused on Chapter 12, Verse 2:

בוְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַֽאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַֽאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶֽהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה:

The beginning of the Verse say I will bless you and the end of the Pasuk says, you will be blessed.  The Chok has a Perush that I have only seen in the old Mikros Gedolas put out by Penimim that can no longer be found.

The bottom Perush asks: why does Chapter 12, Verse 2 say at the end of the Verse repeat that Avrohom should be blessed, when it says it 4 word earlier that he will be blessed?  He answered that when earlier in the verse it says that Avrohom will have a great name and be well known, people with become jealous and cast on him the “evil eye”. The Eiyan Harah will cause Avorhom to lose his wealth, so he needed a blessing that despite people’s jealousy, the “evil eye” will not have any affect on Avrohom.

At about 6:00 AM went back to sleep.  Got up at 7:15 AM and went  to the BAYT for their 7:30 AM Minyan.  Met Idelis who played with the Diaspora Yeshiva Band.  Afterwards when to an hour long Shiur

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Went upstairs to the main Shul to hear the Rabbi’s speech.  Rabbi Korobkin spoke eloquently. After the speech, I finally found Frank Diament.  At my last trip I was Desperately Seeking Frank, and I found him. We schmoozed for over 30 minutes about Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, Israel, the book The Prime Ministers, CUFI.  He was familiar with all of it. His father was a Beitar (Jabotinsky) member and Frank grew up being a member. I mentioned that Rabbi Shmuel Bowman talked about Christian Evangelicals at BRS about 5 years ago.  Frank mentioned that Rabbi Shmuel Bowman is at the Conservatory visiting his father. I fulfilled the Chazel that says, if you mention a thought in the name of the person who said it, you bring redemption to the world and I was rewarded with the chance of being re-united with Rabbi Shmuel Bowman. My mother in law lives in the building.

It was already 12:30, very late and I walked to Yisroel and Chai’s house to visit Hudi.  She was sleeping. I showed Yisroel the Chok L’Yisroel from his grandfather.  I spoke over all my Torah, especially the Kotzker on Chanoch. I was smoking. It was 30 minutes of Torah discussion.  Got home at 1:30 PM.  Label walked me home.  Had a great Shabbos meal.

Mincha at 4:45 PM.

I asked the two Gabbais if I could speak right after Mincha and right before the regular speaker for two minutes.  Right before I was getting up to speak, one of the Gabbis, with his British accent that gave off a very Yekkish vibe, said that no, I cannot speak.  The other Gabbai said I should be allowed to speak and did. I proceeded to praise Rabbi Shmuel Bowman, mentioned exactly what he said 5 years earlier, how much I was inspired by him, hugged him  and gave Nachas to his father. I felt the entire time the Yekkish Gabbai and other were staring daggers at me.  

The speaker was excellent.  He is a retired professor of Jewish Studies at McGill University in Montreal.

After Davening I walked and rode with Rabbi Bowman with his father to and on the elevator and to the 6th floor.  He lives on the 7th floor with my mother in law on the 6th floor. I found out the Rabbi Bowman is a Sofer STAM and a motivational speaker, besides operating his NGO, Operation Lifeshield.  I asked Rabbi Bowman, what his thoughts were of the Kotzker Rebbe. Rabbi Bowman answers, Ahavas Yisroel, love of fellow Jews. I was astounded and asked him how did you know this.  Most people would not answer that the Kotzker was all about Ahavas Yisroel. Rabbi Bowman told me through Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach.  

Rabbi Bowman lives in Efrat, a few doors down from his good friend, Dovid Willner, my cousin.  Wow.

Saturday Night – November 9, 2019:

Went to a movie at the BAYT – Prosecuting Evil:  The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz. After the movie the Rabbi and  Jordanna Leibowitz spoke. She is only 23 and was impressive. She is the granddaughter of Judy and Anshel Leibowitz, good friends and neighbors of my in laws, in Clanton Park.  They had the corner home in the Cul-de-Sac. Jordanna’s father is Shlomie Leibowitz. I also saw the other brother, Hymie, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He looked the same.  There were over 200 people there.  

https://www.cjnews.com/news/canada/survivors-granddaughter-attended-groening-trial-germany

Sunday – November 10, 2019:

 Davened at the BAYT.  Went to the Hakomas Matzvah for Aunt Ruth Noble-Lister.  Label and Yosef Lister spoke. Miriam Lister-Klein came in. 

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For Dinner went to Dr. Laffa in the Soby shopping center.  Danny Noble form New York and Shimmy Rothman came with us for dinner.

Monday – November 11, 2019:

Left for Chicago at 10:00 AM.  It was snowing and the road snow covered.  It took me 13 hours and 10 minutes, I stopped every hour.

 

Shabbos Parshas Breshis 2019

October 25-26, 2019

  • Another great Shabbos at ASBI.
  • Shabbos Mevorchim Cheshvan
  • Shabbos in Lakeview
  • Carlbach Friday Night Davening
  • Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s Torah
  • Midrash Mordechai on Breishis – Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Morgenstern

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I am excited.  Nothing better than Shabbos in Lakeview.

We are now starting from the Beginning of the Torah,  Sefer Breishis.   The Torah of the Breshis is magnificent.  We get to spend the next two months delving into our origins and our holy forefathers.   This alone is a major Simcha and a reason to celebrate.

The Friday night davening was down in the social hall, was a Carlbach davening,  and was magnificent.  I was greatly inspired.  Sholom davened with me.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld spoke out the Malbim at the beginning of Breishis.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld listed the multiple questions of the Malbim on the first Passuk.  Each letter and word had an anomaly and the Malbim asked about 10 questions.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld said that my purpose now is not to say the answers, but to show how much one can ask and learn from every Passuk in the Torah. 1.    He read the Malbim’s opening questions on the first verses of Bereshit and made the point that every act of translation is itself an act of interpretation and that there was no way to derive even a simple Pshat understanding of any Pasuk without engaging in significant questions about the very meaning of words. Is “Bereishit” in construct form (Rashi) or not (Rambam…and King James)?

Went to Tzvi and Sholom’s apartment for the Shabbos meal.  Serka prepared a great meal.  Eli ate with us.

Shabbos Morning:

Got up at 4:00 AM, learned until 5:15 AM, slept until 7:15 AM.  Finished the Parsha.  Went to Daven at the Hashkamah Minyan, had the third Aliya.  Falk davened nicely.  Great Cholent.  Brought the Diet Faygo pop.  Faygo was started by two brothers with the last name Feginson out of Detroit .   Went to the main sanctuary.   Sat in the Shul to listen to Rabbi Wolkenfeld.     He shared his wife’s observation that we read the beginning of the Torah having just completed it and we read the end of the Torah just moments before starting it again. So, even though these chapters are far apart, they are still linked very closely. Moshe is invited to “see” Eretz Yisrael before he dies and how good it is. That isn’t a cruel tease, but an echo to the opening actions of God in Sefer Bereishit who “sees” the new creations and how good they are.   Rabbi Wolkenfeld introduced this by saying that Moshe’s death appears to be depressing and he answered it with his wife’s thought.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld said for years he thought the death of Moshe was unfair and depressing.   Zipporah asked at our Simchas Torah table and I tried to answer it.  However, Rabbi Wolkenfeld and his wife gave the answer a beautiful thought.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld spoke nicely about the Pittsburgh massacre.  Went to the Kiddush and saw Eli.

I gave a large portion of the Dr. Leonard Kranzler memorial Parshah Shiur. My Torah starts at the next page.

The Shiur was over at 2:30 PM after we learned from Sefer Yehoshua.  Tzvi came by and sat in the Shiur.  Tzvi is great.  Orson Welles’s name came up and Tzvi knew about Citizen Kane  and his other great movie, The Magnificent Ambersons.   It was raining all day.  I sat and walked in Shul with Tzvi.

Davened Mincha, learned some Daf Yomi, Davened Maariv, and went home.

Vort #1:

I read the first Kotzker Vort in the Sefer Ohel Torah.  The Sefer is called Ohel Torah because the numerical value of Ohel Torah is the same as Rabbinu Menachem Mendel Z”L.

I  had to read the Vort four times until its brilliance emerged.   Rabbi Wolkenfeld helped in my understanding.  I had these thoughts for a number of years, however, Rabbi Wolkenfeld gave it form and expression.   Source (Ramasaim Zophim 20A)

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Translation:

The Midrash Tanchuma states – This is what the Torah means when it says in Mishlei 3:19 – “God with wisdom founded the earth”.  That is when Hashem was about to create the world, He consulted the Torah and then created the world, as it says in Mishlei 8:14:  Council and wisdom is mine , I am understanding  and, power is mine.  How was the Torah written?  It was written with letters of black fire on a surface of white fire as it says in Shir HaShirim 5:11 –   34 This means that each crowned stroke on the letters of the Torah contains heaps and heaps of law.  This is the language of the Midrash Tanchuma.

The Gemoro in Menachos 29B brings down the statement of Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rav that when Moshe ascended the heavens, Moshe found God tying crowns to the letters of the Torah.  He said, God, who is preventing you form giving the Torah as it, without the adornments.  God responds – there is one man at the end of many generation and Akiva Ben Yosef is his name that in the future will expound of even crown and crown heaps and heaps of law . . .

The Kotzker continues – with these ideas we can understand the words of our teacher, the Rebi, Reb Bunim of Pershischa, TZL who said, “that they learn with him the letters”.   This is to be understood like we said  that Rabbi Akiva learned many laws from the crowns of Torah, how much more so from every letter there is great amount to expound.  Every letter has within it many letters, Milui and Milui of Melium, and the forms of each letter.  The Rebi, Reb Bunim continued “that he learned from the heavens,”, like the Gemoro says that this learning can only be learnt from the heavens.

The end means that the Torah is so great infused with almost infinity of laws and explanations, put into the Torah by God himself to be learnt and expounded, uncovered by man.  Perhaps the Rebi  is referring to learning with an angel, but I think he is also saying that we can uncover this heavenly Torah but it is hard coded in the words of the Torah.  If I may add that once the Kotzker explained the actions and once the Rebi Reb Bunim learned Torah form the heavens. He bought it down to us and once it was exposed to our world we can learn the same Torah.

Vort #2:

Chanoch walked with God then he was no more, for God took him.  Rashi explains that Chanoch was a righteous mans, but his mind was easily induced to turn form his righteous ways and to become wicked,  God therefore took him away quickly and made him die before his full time . . .

It appears to be very difficult to anyone who reads this Rashi.   Is it possible to say about Chanoch who was “Mitatat”, the official of the inner sanctum of God,  that he was heaven forbid easily influenced to do  evil.

It seems that the explanation is just the opposite – it  was easy for Chanoch to speak to the heart of a sinner to leave his path of wickedness.  God was therefore afraid through Chanoch that free choice (in the world) would be gone;  therefore He hastened to remove Chanoch from this world before his time.   Meaning Chanoch was a super Lubavitcher Rebbe.  (Source Lekutai Magadim, Volume 1 (Page 11A).

Wow.  The Kotzker turns Rashi 180 degrees and says that Rashi is talking in praise of Chanoch.

A few years ago Rabbi Pilchik told  me the above Vort  and said the below follow-up in the name of an anonymous Rebi.  Rabbi Ephraim Twerski confirmed the Vort and after math and told me that it was his  Zedi, the Dizikor Rebbe.

  • The follow-up – The night after saying the Vort the Dzikov Rebbe had a dream where Rashi appeared to the Dizikor Rebbe and thanked him for the explanation. Rashi told him that when Rashi saw Chanoch in the next world, they did not look at each other because Rashi disparaged Chanoch.  Now that you explained what I said regarding Chanoch positively we are friendly.   After they told me this Vort, I found the Vort in this Sefer and also in the name of the Kotzker’s son, Admor Dovid Morgenstern TZL (1809-1873), and was ecstatic.  The Kotzker lived from 1787-1859.

2019 addition – perhaps both interpretations in Rashi can be true at the same time.  The more a Tzadik and people are out in the world interacting with people, the more he can be susceptible to be negatively influenced by the people and society he is trying to help, especially if they are speaking to the inner Neshmah of that person.  Perhaps you can say similar to what  happened to Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach and this is why Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s music is greater than ever, because it came from a holy place.

This Maamer lends an important insight into the Kotzker.  He was always looking to find the positive and good in everyone and everything.  I have found that this mindset influences the writings, ideas, and thought of his descendants.

Third Vort:

This is from my great-Uncle, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Morgenstern.  He took over after the death of his father, the Pilaver Rebbe.  Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Morgenstern was the fourth generation Kotzker and I am the seventh.  Beautiful.

 

Shabbos Parshas Bechukosi: June 1, 2019 – 27 Iyar 5779

How do I communicate the joy of this Shabbos, so the reader feels my joy.

Highlights:

  • Staying in Lakeview for Shabbos
  • Friday night Carlebach Davening at ASBI
  • Sholom davening with me Friday night
  • Inviting a guest for our Friday night meal
  • Eating by my kids on Shabbos
  • Having great Friday night conversation with our guest
  • Walking our guest partially home
  • Davening at the Hashkamah minyan and having Cholent at the Kiddush
  • Discovering my Chiddush in the Ahavas Shaul
  • Listening to the Rabbi’s Drasha (speech at end of this post)
  • Giving the Chumash Shiur at 12:30 – great Shiur
  • Listening to Professor Ruth Lander giving a class on the origins of the Siddur

Friday Night – May 31, 2019:

I decided to stay in Lakeview for Shabbos by my sons, Sholom and Tzvi. This Shabbos is Shabbos Mivorchim Sivan and ASBI has a Carlebach Shabbos Friday night service. I arrived at the Shul a little late with Sholom. The davening was magnificent. Rabbinit Sarna spoke and afterwards I told her it was the best Torah I heard from her.

I walked out of Shul after davening and saw Danielle sitting outside the Shul. I understood that she needed a meal. Although I was staying at my sons’ house, I invited her. It was a great meal. Danielle writes movie reviews, interviews directors and other movie personalities to various film festivals, such as Toronto, Cannes, etc. She talked about her experiences. Look her up at solzyatthemovies.com. Tzvi also loves movies. I brought cold cuts and salad. We had plenty to go around. After the meal we walked her halfway home. It was a beautiful evening. Danielle had no invitations for Friday night and she appreciated a meal and the company.

Shabbos Morning – June 1, 2019:

Arrived at ASBI at 7:55 AM and davened at the Hashkama minyan which started at 8:00 AM. I received an Aliyah. They served tasty Cholent at the Kiddush.

Went upstairs and learned from Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet’s Sefer Ahavas Sholem with Binyamin Cohen. He helped me understand the Torah. I joyously discovered that I had the merit to be M’Chavin to his Torah and added to it. Went into the main Shul to hear Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s Shabbos Drasha. Excellent speech.

After Davening I went to the Kiddush. Sholom came and we talked.

I gave the 12:30 PM Chumash Shiur and read the Torah of Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet on Bechukosi. I also gave historical background using the attached three pages from the book Jews of Chicago, written by Irving Cutler. I also discussed the Haskomos in the Sefer from the Ridvaz, Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky written in 1902 and from Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook written in 1903 when he was still Rabbi in Boisk, before he made Aliyah.

The following is the Torah I said from Ahavas Sholem, page 76 and 77 – on Parshas Bechukosi: Comments in brackets are what I added.

Chapter 26, Verse 6:

ווְנָֽתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַֽחֲרִ֑יד וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֞י חַיָּ֤ה רָעָה֙ מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְחֶ֖רֶב לֹא־תַֽעֲבֹ֥ר בְּאַרְצְכֶֽם:

“And I will grant Peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten you; I will remove wild beats from the Land , and no army will pass through the land.”

The explanation is that through the merit of learning our holy Torah, we will be protected from baseless hatred among us Jews, there will be actual peace among us. Because Torah scholars increase peace in the world. Therefore, even when you sleep, you will have nothing to fear. (This is what the Ibn Ezra says using one word on ווְנָֽתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ – “Benachim” – Among Yourselves.)

The Torah continues “ and I will drive out wild beasts from the land”. This means that God will remove wild beasts from the land of Israel and it does not mean that he will destroy them completely.

The Ahavas Yisroel spends the better part of page 76 on this – that the wild beasts will be moved out of Israel and into surrounding lands.

The Ahavas Yisroel concludes beautifully on the top of page 77 as follows:

“It comes out from everything I have laid out that when the Jews are dedicated to Torah for its own sake, even inanimate objects sprout and produces. Nothing natural stands in our way. In addition, Hashem Yisborach promises us that he will give peace amount us.

The problem is this:

The Gemara in Brcohos 33 states that everything is in the hands of God, except for fear of heaven. Free choice is up to man and the greatest sin is Machlokes – bitter disagreement and separation of hearts. This was borne out by the second temple, that just because you have Torah, you may not have fear of heaven. The second temple, despite being full of Torah, was destroyed because of internal fighting. Their Torah was “Sh’lo Leshmah” not for the sake of heaven.

Although we find there is value in learning Torah “Sh’lo Leshmah” – not for the sake of heaven. As we find in Pesachim 50B that people should learn “Sh’lo Leshmah” because learning not for the sake of heaven leads to learning for the sake of heaven. However, when you are still learning Sh’lo Lishmah, not for the sake of heaven, and have not yet arrived to Leshmah, there will be Machlokes – bitter disagreement.

However, a person who is able take his Torah to a level of אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כו and learns Torah Leshmah – for its own sake and watches the commandments to keep them will bring peace in the world.

How do we understand the Gemoro Kedushim 30B:`

What is the meaning of the phrase “enemies in the gate” with regard to Torah study? Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba says: Even a father and his son, or a rabbi and his student, who are engaged in Torah together in one gate become enemies with each other due to the intensity of their studies. But they do not leave there until they love each other,”

That even a father -son, teacher-student that learns Torah together start out as enemies. Since בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ refers to learning our holy Torah, it would seem that disagreements will spread among the Jews, but in truth the Gemara concludes that they do not leave there until they love each other. Therefore, through learning Torah, I will give peace among the Torah scholars and not only will there be peace among them but there will be peace in the land.  Meaning, there will be no war, enabling the people to lie down and not be afraid, not from war and not from hatred between men.

What the Ahavas Shaul is saying that learning Torah Leshmah brings peace. Is the peace on a metaphysical level or on a practical level? About ten years ago I said based on the Rashi quoted above on Chapter 26, Verse 3 that Im Bechukosi Talachu means that if you learn intensely then God will provide plenty for the Jews in Israel. Then, as the Ibn Ezra says on Chapter 26, Verse 6 on the words וְנָֽתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ, I will give peace Among Yourselves”. What the Ahavas Shaul is saying is based on this Ibn Ezra that if there is true learning Torah intensely then there will be peace. How does this work?

The answer is that we all have our own understanding Torah. I will understand Torah using my abilities different than others. It may be subtle or major. If a Rosh Yeshiva says an explanation, I can disagree with it and we can both be correct, or I alone can be correct. Through going through the battle of Torah which is Truth, we will develop mutual respect and love for one another and this will bring Peace in Klal Yisroel. Meaning, if the Rosh Yeshiva in Ponovich gave Shiur at Atareth Cohanim in the old city and all the students wore knit Yarmulkes, the love between them will be intertwined.

People arguing and fighting over ideology, Hashkafah, how to dress, will not lead to mutual respect but bitter fights. Learning Torah intensely and arguing over Torah leads to love and respect. 45 years ago my study partner, Harold Katz. said that after Purim in Israel, no one learns. I said at the time, wouldn’t it be great if after Purim all the Rosh Yeshivas have to say Shiur in other Yeshivas. The Rosh Yeshiva of Mir say a Shiur in the Gush, the Rosh Yeshiva of Gush in Ponovich, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovich in Bar Ilan University Imagine the Ahavas Yisroel that would have been created over the last 30 years that Klal Yisroel has lost.

There is a story of the Chidusshi Harim and the Lissa Rov on my website that illustrates this point.

Rabbi David Wolkenfeld
ASBI Congregation
Behukotai 5779

Safety in Numbers
Some of you may know that I went to a specialized math and science high school. I don’t often draw upon that element of my education but I do want to work through an arithmetic problem with you all this morning.
Five is to one hundred, as one hundred is to….
Well…five times twenty is one hundred, and so one hundred times twenty is two thousand.
But the opening verses of our Torah portion this week present a different sort of mathematics:
וְרָדְפ֨וּ מִכֶּ֤ם חֲמִשָּׁה֙ מֵאָ֔ה וּמֵאָ֥ה מִכֶּ֖ם רְבָבָ֣ה יִרְדֹּ֑פוּ וְנָפְל֧וּ אֹיְבֵיכֶ֛ם לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם לֶחָֽרֶב׃
“Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand” Five victorious Israelites can pursue one hundred adversaries, and one hundred victorious Israelites, blessed with Divine favor can pursue ten thousand adversaries. This is not a linear progression, this is an accelerating growth curve. How can we understand or explain this mathematical progression?

Rashi explains:
אֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה מֻעֲטִין הָעוֹשִׂים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה לִמְרֻבִּין הָעוֹשִׂין אֶת הַתּוֹרָה
“A small number who follow the Torah cannot be compared through a simple comparison to a large number of people who follow the Torah.”

The verse illustrates the power of a community coming together. When we join together we become force magnifiers for one another other. A friend can offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on – but a community can fill a shivah home with visitors offering condolence and can provide a minyan for kaddish. A brother or sister can slap you on the back with joy when hearing your good news, but that cannot replace being surrounded by a community dancing at a wedding or a bar mitzvah or at some other simcha.
אֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה מֻעֲטִין הָעוֹשִׂים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה לִמְרֻבִּין הָעוֹשִׂין אֶת הַתּוֹרָה
“A small number who follow the Torah cannot be compared through a simple comparison to a large number of people who follow the Torah.”

The context of the mathematical dynamic in our parsha, however, relates to self-defense and confronting our enemies. Everyone understands there is safety in numbers, two are stronger than one, but not as strong as three, which in turn, is not as strong a four. Even Kohelet, in its most cynical and world-weary mood tells us that two are stronger than one and three is stronger than two. It doesn’t get more simple that that. Or does it? The Torah is saying something different in this week’s parasha. The Torah’s numbers demonstrate that the
safety in numbers multiplies at a faster rate than do our numbers. When just a few more of us stand together, we become so much safer and can confront our adversaries in a much more effective way.

I thought about this dynamic a lot this week. I traveled to Springfield this Wednesday with the Orthodox Union to speak to legislators on behalf of an initiative to secure state funding for security enhancements for communities that are at threat of being victimized by hate crimes. Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, a new State Representative from the Northern suburbs is one of the co-sponsors of this initiative and he welcomed our delegation from the statehouse floor and then called, one by one, each of our representatives to come off the statehouse floor to speak with us. When you are introduced as “the rabbi of the synagogue that was firebombed two weeks ago” people pay attention and listen. But standing side by side with a Baptist pastor from the South Side and a Syrian priest, a Muslim cleric, a Sikh scholar, and a Hindu communal leader gave each one of us added weight and authenticity to speak. That too is a form of safety in numbers. The coalition of men and women of good will from various faiths and diverse ethnic backgrounds, who all recognize that none of us are safe so long as all of us are not safe, is a force multiplier just as the Torah describes.

Another story from earlier this week brought home that same message. In response to a worrisome rise in antisemitism in Germany, the government’s own commissioner responsible for combating antisemitism, Felix Klein, announced that Jews should take responsibility for their safety by refraining from wearing a kippah or other outward identification marker as Jews. “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany.” he said. Indeed, the common practice, of many observant Orthodox Jews in Italy and France and elsewhere is in line with these recommendations. I have vivid memories of visiting Paris almost 15 years ago and seeing not one single outwardly identifiable Jew on a street with four kosher restaurants. (Sara and I went incognito; I wore a wool newspaper-boy cap and Sara wore a bright blue tichel; we fit right in). But the story in Germany, at least this week, took a different turn. One German tabloid newspaper printed a cut-out kippah on their front page and encouraged their readers to cut it out and somehow wear it proudly in solidarity with Germany’s Jewish community. (I’m imagining something akin to those cardboard kippot they give out at the kotel). Julian Reichelt, the newspaper’s editor, wrote, “”If even one person in our country cannot wear the kippah without putting themselves in danger, then the only answer must be that we all wear the kippah. The kippah belongs to Germany!”

There is safety in numbers. These two examples are the safety in numbers that are available to us when non-Jewish allies step forward and stand beside us, whether they are Germans committed to combating antisemitism or our own neighbors in Chicago. But what about our own numbers? Three people, all strangers whose names I do not know, approached me on the street in the past two weeks and said, “I think I recognize you from television.” I have to admit that in none of my previous delusions of grandeur (and I have many delusions of grandeur) have I ever imagined that someone would say those words to me. These three individuals spoke to me to offer their solidarity and support for our community. And, indeed, nearly 100% of the interactions I have had with strangers on the street in Chicago because I wear a kippah in the nearly six years that I have lived here have been positive (including the random joggers and bikers and passers-by who routinely wish my family Shabbat Shalom as they swoosh past on Shabbat afternoons).

But, the reluctance of many European Jews to be visible in public as Jews stems from an anxiety I sometimes feel too. A close friend of my father’s once characterized their differences by saying, “I am American Jew and could not believe anything bad could happen; he was a European Jew and knew that it had.” And each of us need to balance the American Jewish optimism with the sober awareness of the nature of Jewish history and an awareness of the darker potentials of the Jewish present. But, I want to encourage you to think about what you might gain through a more public expression of your Jewish identity and your Jewish commitments. The earliest references in the Talmud to Jews covering our heads as a form of religious devotion occurs in the context of a discussion of an apparent obligation of married women to have some form of head covering whenever they are in public. Later in the Talmud, there is evidence of some very pious, but not all men, covering their heads as well.

Rabbi Nahman bar Yitzhak’s mother, according to a Talmudic legend, was told by a Chaldean astrologer that her son would grow up to be a thief. To prevent this from happening she ensured that his head was always
covered. She raised him to keep his head covered and to, “cover your head so that the fear of Heaven will be upon you.” He had no idea why she said this. Until one day, sitting under a fruit tree that did not belong to him, a gust of wind uncovered his head, and overcome by desire, he reached up and plucked fruit that was not his to take. Somehow his head covering had kept him from theft all those years.

The head covering of women, the head covering of pious men, the head covering that prevents theft, are perhaps all motivated by the same ethos of cultivating an awareness that one stands in the presence of God. All of these forms of head coverings could be our way to echo the head coverings worn as part of the
uniform by the kohanim as they served in the beit ha’mikdash . Indeed, all of the rabbinic restrictions on heating food on Shabbat, (such as shehiyah and hazzarah) are motivated by a fear that we will forget it is Shabbat and stoke embers into a fire on Shabbat to speed up the warming of our food. But in the beit hamikdash there were no rabbinic restrictions on heating food on Shabbat because the kohanim would remind one another to be aware of God and the sanctity of Shabbat.

We too are enlisted in the service of God no less than the kohanim. I am very lucky that I work for the Jewish community and it is considered quite appropriate for me to embrace this Jewish practice even where I work. I understand that it might not be considered professionally appropriate to wear an identifiably Jewish head covering or even a Jewish necklace at the courthouse or hospital or factory or school where you work. But I do know that when we are not at work, we have more freedom to express ourselves and embrace parts of our identities and religious practices that we might keep more hidden when we are on the job.

I also know that the more of us who make the choice to display our Judaism in an outward way in the supermarket or on the playground, the more comfortable it will be for each one of us to do so. Years ago, when Noam was three years old, we drove from Princeton into Manhattan to attend the Salute to Israel Parade. We parked our car near my mother’s apartment and began the walk through Central Park towards the parade route on Fifth Avenue. As I pushed Noam’s stroller through the park, he saw another Jewish man headed for the parade and called out while pointing, “there’s a Jew!” And then two minutes later, as we saw someone else headed for the parade, he called out again, “I see another Jew!” Fortunately, the novelty of seeing other Jews on the street wore off before we reached the parade and its tens of thousands of marchers.

Let us find ways to recognize the presence of God above us always, whether we are at work or in the supermarket or in the park. And let us support one another, each one of us on his and her unique path of growth in Torah and mitzvot. In this way, may we merit the blessings of this morning’s Torah portion:

וְנָתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַחֲִר֑יד

“I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone.”
Through coming together, within our community, and with allies on the outside, may we recognize that it is God’s own blessing that entails:
אֶתְכֶ֖ם קֽוֹמְמִיּֽוּת׃ 􀋂 וָאוֹלֵ֥

“It is I,” God says, “who cause you to walk upright.”
(We have found that internal strife brings destruction in Klal Yisroel. The most famous is during the destruction of the second temple, when the Romans were at the gates of Jerusalem, there was civil war within the city or when the city supply of food and fuel were destroyed. The other example was in the late 1700s when a Misnaged went to the authorities to libel the Ba’al Hatanya thinking he was doing a virtuous act, endorsed by the Torah scholars.)

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)

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.  

CHABAD OF LOS FELIZ: A CELEBRATION OF A DREAM COME TRUE

CHESED THAT ONLY LUBAVITCH DOES

I received a notice from Chabad of Los Feliz that they are building and will be opening up a brand new center.  http://www.chabadlosfeliz.org/.    We say a blessing to God for letting us share is this great Simcha.

Mission Statement

Chabad of Greater Los Feliz is dedicated to providing every Jew regardless of background, philosophy or level of commitment, an open door environment for strengthening and enhancing Jewish family life. Chabad serves individuals and families looking for an anchor and non-judgmental, accepting, personalized Jewish experience.

Chabad offers “Judaism with a Smile,” and a home away from home for everyone who walks through its doors

This is a great moment for Rabbi Korf and his wife, for Chabad of Los Feliz, for Chabad, and for Klal Yisroel.

The kindness of Rabbi Leibel and Dvonye Korf to my family:

It is Thanksgiving 2001 and my father is in the Kaiser Permanete hospital at Sunset and Vermont.   I flew into LA to be with my father.  I was driving east on Sunset from La Brea to get to Kaiser Permanete.  I thought there were no Jews  from La Brea going east to Denver, Colorado.  I was worried about Shabbos.  I spent  Thursday night with my father.  It was terrible.  The hospital did not give my father food as they had to test him to make sure he could swallow.  It was excruciating   watching my father in pain.  Though the night he keep mumbling and saying occasional words.  I imagined that he was re-living the holocaust.  Finally in mid morning they had a therapist test my father and they were able to feed my father.

On Friday morning I was speaking to Heshy Maryles and his wife telling them my problem about Shabbos.   They told me that there is a Chabad house near the hospital.  I was shocked and knew my prayers were answered.  At 11:00 AM I called Rabbi Korf who told me that there is no problem.  I can sleep in his house and have my Shabbos meals with them.  I was with my father Friday afternoon and went over to the Korfs for Shabbos.  Davened in their storefront Shul at 1727 N. Vermont.   The Friday meal was inspiring.  The house and table were set up beautifully and there was a full table of guests.  Rabbi Korf was only 28 and his wife a drop younger and they had the poise of real adults.   The only specific dialogue I remember is one 45-50 year woman who said that she was born in America and lacks the drive of immigrants who are driven to be successful.

Being at the Friday night meal, I saw the embryo of a community and wanted to be part of it.  It was beautiful.  Rabbi Korf told me of his dream to build a Torah center and now 16 years after the Korfs showed me kindness, there dream is being fulfilled. Let us all be part of the Simcha and support the Korfs in their holy endeavor.

Shabbos morning I went to visit my father and then made it to Shul at about 10:15M I was the 10th man.  The Rabbi told me that the person who leined (about 50 years old) was a former Yeshiva bocher who went off the Derek.  Rabbi Korf was bringing him back to religion, as only Lubavitch can do.

At the Kiddush there was Cholent.   I told the Rabbi, “Can you imagine, we are eating Cholent miles east of La Brea, well outside the Frum community, a very Jewish food where I thought there were no Jews.

Being at the Friday night meal, I saw the embryo of a community and wanted to be part of it.  It was beautiful.  Rabbi Korf told me of his dream to build a Torah center and now 16 years after the Korfs showed me kindness, there dream is being fulfilled. Let us all be part of the Simcha and support the Korfs in their holy endeavor.

This is the story of Chabad of Los Feliz:

Seventeen years ago a young couple arrived in Los Angeles with a dream: to reach out to fellow Jews who might be unaffiliated, who might be disconnected from their heritage and their faith, who might want to learn about what it means to be Jewish through educational, cultural, social and spiritual activities in a warm, non-judgmental, supportive community. And so, Chabad of Greater Los Feliz was born, one of over three thousand similar Chabad Centers around the world.

Rabbi Leibel Korf and his wife Dvonye started their first Chabad House in their own home, at 1944 N. Berendo Street in what was then the not-so-fashionable East Side of Los Angeles. With their six-month old baby Mendel at their side, they opened their doors and celebrated their first Shabbos in August 1998 with only two guests, neighborhood Jews who were pleasantly surprised by a dinner invitation from their community’s energetic new rabbi and rebbitzen. By that September, there were 25 people for High Holiday services. A few weeks later, over fifty people showed up for dinner in the Korfs’ backyard Sukkah. Soon, there was a Hebrew School in the living room, adult education classes at the dining room table, and a minyan for Shabbat.

Slowly, the Korfs built strong relationships in a neighborhood that was turning into one of the hippest, liveliest and fastest-growing in Los Angeles. By July of 1999, when the Korfs moved into their present home at 1932 New Hampshire, the Chabad of Greater Los Feliz was still in the living room, but they now were providing educational and social programs to hundreds of local Jews. Speakers came to visit Los Feliz; there was a Lag B’Omer picnic in Griffith Park, and even the first sleepover Shabbaton at the Ramada Inn. By Rosh Hashana that year, there were so many worshippers the Rabbi had to rent a hall to accommodate them.

In 2000, the Korfs opened their first true Chabad House, a storefront at 1727 N. Vermont Avenue. For five and a half years the little synagogue and community center in the mini-mall served neighborhood Jews with the Korfs’ trademark warmth and supportive spirit. Locals and visitors alike learned that they were always still welcome for Shabbos meals at the Korfs’ table, and if, G‑d forbid, they were hospitalized at any of the nearby hospitals, they and their families were never alone. The Korfs were always there to provide spiritual support, delicious kosher food, and religious services free of charge to anyone who needed them.

Chabad of Greater Los Feliz moved into its beautiful new building at 1930 Hillhurst Avenue in February of 2006. In the past years, through the generosity of the Rosenthal family and all of our other wonderful contributors, Oma’s Center (named for Martha Levisohn Auerbach, Phil Rosenthal’s grandmother) has attracted even more worshippers, students and eager members of our neighborhood’s thriving Jewish community. Rabbi Korf and Dvonye still feed us all, physically and spiritually, and now with six beautiful children they still open their home and their hearts to all of us.

Recently, Rabbi Korf began a special program at Children’s Hospital, called the Rebbitzen Raichik Child First program, which offers a variety of services to children undergoing treatment and their families. We offer books, videos and storytelling, arts and crafts, and play activities for children of all ages, with three full-time volunteers at the hospital. We urge you to contact us whenever you have family or friends who need our help at a time we know can be so stressful and difficult.

Chabad of Greater Los Feliz serves one of the most diverse Jewish communities in the United States, and certainly one of the most diverse Chabad Houses. The Korfs serve the young and the old, singles and families, working people and retirees, newlyweds and widows, Russians, Israelis, French. Latinos, blacks, whites, hipsters, converts, children – all of whom share a common faith and a common goal: to connect through Judaism to each other, to our heritage, to ourselves, and to G‑d.

We wish you and our entire community continued blessings. May the past ten years be only the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship, as together we help Judaism to thrive in this special corner of the world, and hasten the coming of Moshiach with every mitzvah.

 

TO LIVE IN LA – THREE DAYS OF HEAVEN IN LA

December 17 – December 20, 2015

PARSHA    V’YIGASH

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 <MMorgenstern@mbfinancial.com>
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

kotzk

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.