On this day 152 years ago: The Battle of Gettysburg

JULY 3, 1863 – GETTYSBURG, PA – 152 Years ago

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 – July 3, 1863. At 1:00 PM on July 3, 1863 Colonel E. P. Alexander, commander of the Confederate artillery on that day, gave the order and 150 Confederate guns open up against the Union line located approximately 1 mile away along Cemetery Ridge. The plan was to soften the Union defenses and then charge through the Union line and rout the Army of the Potomac.

This is a 6 minute portion from the movie, Gettysburg, which shows General James Longstreet discusisng the plans with his field General.s


This is a 4 minitue snipet from the movie showing Picketts charge:


This is another 4 minute snippet showing General Armistad ralling the troops.  He shouts,  “Give them the cold steel boys” and they go over the top.


At about 1:30 PM, the order is given and 12,500 Confederate soldiers emerge from the woods behind Seminary Ridge. They line up in formation about 1 mile across, bayonets fixed and glistening in the bright July sun. It was an amazing sight.
At about 2:00 PM, General Pickett gallops on his horse to General James LongstreLet, commander of Lee’s First Corp . Pickett asked Longstreet, “General, shall I advance?” Longstreet’s memoir recalled: “The effort to speak the order failed, and I could only indicate it by an affirmative bow.”[x] General Longstreet felt the charge was doomed and could not verbalize the order to charge. He nods and General Pickett gives the order to march forward towards the Union line. The charge is known in history as Pickett’s Charge. Watch the movie Gettysburg for a vivid view of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett’s Charge and see all the entire battle unfolding before your eyes.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet                General Robert E. Lee

I visited Gettysburg one item in my life and that was the day after Nachum and Alyssa Caplan’s wedding in Baltimore. I wandered onto the battlefield with no clue what I was looking at. I asked someone walking by for information. He told me that he is of the Southern persuasion and comes often. He showed me the high water mark, the bloody angle, and gave me an outline of Pickett’s charge . He told me that it has been debated for years as to why General Lee ordered the attack, when they were going p against a dug in and fortified Union line. This Southern gentleman explained that General Lee was suffering from dysentery and his mind was not clear. The wisdom and failure of Pickett’s charge has been debated every since the war. Who was to blame? Who let General down? Was General Longstreet a traitor ? Years later, when asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, General Pickett replied: “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
William Faulkner commented on this moment before the charge of the possibilities, when all the hopes and dreams of the Confederacy can come true. Read it with a Southern drawl.

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come to far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.
– William Faulkner, novelist

I read this fascinating account of the battle by Colonel C. E. Alexander written by him in 1877.

E. P. Alexander at Gettysburg

Letter From General E. P. Alexander, Late Chief Of Artillery, First Corps., A. N. V.

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IV. Richmond, Virginia, September, 1877. No. 3.

Montgomery, Alabama. March 17th 1877.
Reverend J. William Jones, Secretary:


Edward Porter Alexander (Library of Congress)

Dear Sir — I have your favor of the 27th ult., enclosing copy of letter from , giving an outline of his views of the campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, and inviting my comments thereon. I take great pleasure in giving them in the same frank spirit in which they are asked, and asking no one to accept them to whom they do not commend themselves, and not pretending to know every thing about it.
My rank and position during that campaign was colonel of artillery, commanding a battalion of six batteries attached as reserve to Longstreet’s corps; and on the field of Gettysburg I was placed by General Longstreet in command of all of his artillery on the field as chief of artillery for the action. As I had belonged to the United States Engineer Corps before the war, and as General Longstreet at that time had no engineer officers on his staff, I was frequently called on, also, during the campaign, as an engineer officer. I mention these facts only that you may form an idea of my personal opportunities of observation and information.

Today, 11 Tammuz 5715 – June 28th is the Yahrzeit of my father, Yisroel Yaakov ben Avrohom Meir, ZL.

Today, 11 Tammuz 5715 – June 28th is the Yahrzeit of my father, Yisroel Yaakov ben Avrohom Meir, ZL.

My nephew, Michoel Glenner, went to my father’s buriel site on Har Hamuchos to and took these pictures.

IMG-20150628-WA0000 IMG-20150628-WA0001

Part One:

My father’s will states:

“This is a donation from the late Mr. Israel J. Morgenstern, who was continuously hungry since September 1, 1939, when Hitler and his German army with his German Luftwaffe (air power) attacked Poland, until May 7, 1945, when he was liberated from Dachau Concentration Camp by the American Army”.

Growing up my father never spoke about his life, his parents and his family in Europe. My grandfather who I am named after, was not real to me. He was not part of my psyche. I did not identify with him, did not feel him within my soul. Despite my father being a holocaust survivor, I did not feel the holocaust within me. I mourned the holocaust as part of the Jewish people, not of my family’s loss. I have gotten older, delved into my family history, understood more of life, backfilled my knowledge about my grandfather, and now can mourn my grandparents and family. Tonight we are mourning not only my father but our family who we lost in the holocaust.

 The below picture is from a meeting of the Warsaw Community Council.  It is a tragic picture because they did not know what the Nazi beast had planned for them.

My grandfather, Reb Avrohom Meir Morgenstern, HYD is sitting in the back right, partially obsucred by I believe Reb Zushe Friedman, author of the Maynah Shel Torah.  Sitting on my zedi’s right is Rabbi Tzvi Yechizkal Michelson, HYD.  For many years I did not know what happened to the holy Rabbi Tzvi Yechizkal Michelson until I read in Dr. Hillel Zeidman, Warsaw Ghetto Diaries, who describered the last day of this Tzaddik.   The Nazi’ s YS’Z,  sent Rabbi Tzvi Yechizkal Michaelson to Treblinka.  Also in the picture according to Historian Esther Farbstein who sent this picture into the Hamodia Magazine is –  Reb Eliyahu Mazor, ZL standing; Dr. Yitzchok Schiffer, HYD to his right.


Polish Jewry was destroyed from 1939 to 1943. The liquation of the Warsaw ghetto began on July 23, 1942. Dr. Hillel Zeidman in his Warsaw Ghetto Diaries, recorded the summer and fall of 1942 along with the winter and spring of 1943 documenting the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto and the final total destruction of Polish Jewry.

It started on July 23, 1942. The head of the Judenrat was Adam Czerniakow. Dr. Hillel Zeidman writes that Adam Czerniakow was secular, but always believed that the Jews would outlast the Nazis. He felt that they must follow the dictates of the Nazis as terrible as they were. Eventually the Germans would be defeated and the Jews would remain intact as a community. On July 23, 1942, he was visited by two SS Officers. They leave and Adam Czerniakow asks his assistant for a glass of water. The assistant gives Adam Czerniakow the water, leaves, and closes the door. After a few minutes, the assistant knocks on the door and there is no response. After a few more minutes he walks in and finds Adam Czerniakow slumped over his desk.   They called doctors, but to no avail. He committed suicide. Adam Czerniakow did not leave a note or a will. They opened his appointment / note book and saw the number 7,000 on it. They understood that Adam Czerniakow was told to deliver 7,000 Jews to the Umschlagplatz, the train station which would take the Jews to Treblinka.   Adam Czerniakow realized that the Jews in Poland as a community would not outlast the Germans, Devastating.   His obedience to the Germans aided the Nazis in their pursuit of the destruction of the Jews. How does on live with oneself. He did not want to further the Nazi’s goals by being their pawn, by delivering the Jews to the Umschlagplatz, to help destroy Polish Jewry. He committed suicide.


My grandparents Avorhom Meir and Ester (Blass) Morgenstern lived before the war in Warsaw and were trapped in the ghetto. We have a partial picture of my grandfather. It is uncanny that he looks like by mother’s father, Reb Sholem Sklar. They could be brothers.

My father who had a wife and child in Kielce, went to be with his parents in the Warsaw ghetto. My father kept his parents alive by providing food for them. They were elderly and could not survive on their own. His father, Reb Avrohom Meir. turns to my father one day and say, “my son, you have fulfilled the command of Honor Your Father and Mother, just like it says in the Torah.” My grandparents were taken to the Umschlagplatz, put on a train, and sent to Treblinka as part of the 7,000. Their number came up.

Michael Savage on his radio program read a first person account of what it was like for a person, such as my grandparents and hundreds of relatives to have the train doors open and you are at Treblinka., It described the horrors of the last hour of life for these holy souls. I listened to it, with one hand by the dial to shut the radio if it got too gruesome. They you Michael Savage.

This day was Tisha B’Av 1942 – the ninth day Av.

The End of the Warsaw Ghetto and Polish Jewry:

downloadThe Warsaw ghetto and Polish Jewry was fully destroyed during Pesach 1943.  Dr. Hillel Zeidman records a meeting between the remaining Rabbis and leaders in the ghetto to discuss the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Rabbi Menachem Ziemba speaks last and says, we should have resisted passively. We should not have gone willingly to the Umschlagplatz.  Rabbi Menachem Ziemba says that there is no Kiddush Hashem to die, but to fight. He places the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a fight for the sake of God. Every person who fought was an agent of God, part of the Jewish army, in the legacy of Dovid Hamelech. They all had the kiss and love of the Gadol Hador, the Rabbinic leader of the generation. They were surrounded with his love. A few days later Rabbi Menachem Ziemba is martyred and Polish Jewry is destroyed.

Please read the following article which expresses these sentiments:


Please also read this article:


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What is the lesson. On a communal level it is Torah, Israel, a strong Army, moral clarity, Achdus, loyal Jews, and wealthy Jews to donate money for the community. What does this mean and what is my father’s legacy on an individual basis. What could Mitch Morgenstern do?   I am not wealthy, I am a middle of the road Jew. Just remembering the holocaust means nothing without something tangible. I did not fight for the IDF, I am not a Torah scholar.

My Speech Continued:

It is about the Chulent:

My father’s hunger led to the following story:

I learn with a study partner. The Shul serves Chulent Thursday nights as a treat. This one Thursday a Mshulach wanders in and asks if he can have some Chulent. One of the members said, No! The Chulent is for the people learning. I was aghast. The poor guy wants some Chulent. There is always extra. I was flabbergasted but could not say anything. I have since gotten to know the no person and he is not bad, he just did not have the sensitivity. He has to be educated.

The next day on Friday, I left work at 6:00 PM. As I am passing the corner of Devon and Lincoln, I see this Meshculach at the stoplight. I made a U-Turn and picked him up. He was with a friend. As he got into my car, I said, aren’t you the person last night who asked for Chulent. He said, I think so. I apologized for the person for his lack of sensitivity, the Shul, and the city of Chicago. I told him that while he is in Chicago, he can go to Tel Aviv Pizza, give them my card and I will pay. He left the following Monday and only used it once. The bonus is that his friend’s grandfather was a Kotzker Chossid.

I do not remember his name.  I think his friend was Rotman.

No Pain, No Gain – A heartfelt Brocha

Rabbi Naftoli G.

No Pain, No Gain – A heartfelt Brocha

June 24, 2015

This coming Sunday the 11 day of Tammuz is my father’s 13th Yahrzeit. I offer the following incident L’Chovod my father.

I am in pain and went to visit the Doctor. I need an MRI and probably some minor surgery. I finished with the Doctor at 7:10 PM and ran over to Chicago Center for Mincha. I usually daven at Reb Moshe’s Shul or Kins, rarely at the Chicago Center. Davened Mincha and said Kaddish for my Mechutan, Moshe ben Yosef, Halevi.   As I walked out I saw an older gentlemen who I thought I recognized but being in pain shuffled past him.   I admit that had I made eye contact, I was afraid that he would ask me donate to his charity, but being in pain, I was not in a charitable mood.

B’H he followed me and gave me an envelope, did not ask for money.   I recognized these older gentlemen and told him we met a few weeks earlier at a different Shul.  He is Rabbi Naftoli G. I reminded him of what he told me at that time. This Rabbi is a Talmud of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, TZL. His father was a Talmud of Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, TZL. Wow. I met someone who was a Talmud and saw Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda and Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kook.   He said they were Kiddoshi Elyon, lofty souls.   I gave him a copy of my Zedi’s Sefer, Sholem Yerushalim that was reprinted by Rabbi Zini, Shlita, and a Rosh Yeshiva in Haifa of Yeshivas Ohr Vishua. Rabbi Naftoli G. knows Rabbi Zini well and will visit him to give him my regards. I never met Rabbi Zini, but feel a close bond to him. Unfortunately, I was in Israel in late January and to my loss I did not visit Rabbi Zini or his Yeshiva. I pray to Hashem that in the near future we have a family Simcha in Israel and I can visit.

I asked Rabbi Naftoli G. to give a speech on Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, TZL. He mentioned that many places would not appreciate the Gadlus of Reb Tzvi Yehuda and Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kook. I told him that I would find him the appropriate venue. Rabbi Naftoli G. is leaving Chicago tonight, but I told him next time to let me know when he will be in Chicago.

I insisted that Rabbi Naftoli G. give me a Brocha for my pain and for Shidduchim.

Perhaps my week of pain was a Kapara for me, and to allow me the Zichus to give regards to Rabbi Zini.

Three Shabbosim – Three Cities – Three Great People

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

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

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin -Shlita

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

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

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

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

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

1)  The Rov


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2)  The Rebbe

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

3)  Menachem Begin

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

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

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

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

Boca Raton – Three Shabbosim – December 2014 – January 2015 – February 2015

I have meant to blog, however, did not have the time. Since the first of the year, we were in Boca three times and I met and met great and interesting people.

1) Professor Mordechai Kedar
2) Mort Klein
3) Borough Park
 4) The four Weisses
5) Rabbi Michael Steinberg

Professor Mordechai Kedar, http://mordechaikedar.com/ and Mort Klein, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Klein

In December 2014, BRS brought in Professor Mordechai Kedar as a scholar in residence. I heard him three times; right after morning prayer services, one hour before Mincha, and after Sholosh Suddos.

Professor Mordechai Kedar is a PHD and professor at Bar Ilan University. He was with IDF intelligence for 25 years. The professor’s speech before Mincha was excellent. He spoke about nation building in the Mideast. The countries in the Mideast were arbitrarily formed in the early part of the 20th century by putting lines on a map, disregarding religion, families, clans, and villages. As a result, there are many failed countries as the ethnic, family, and religious makeups are in friction with one another. Despite great oil wealth the countries are in turmoil. Wealth does not bring stability, but rather stability brings wealth.

After the Sholsoh Suddos meal, most people were headed to the Shul for the evening services. Professor Mordechai Kedar and Mort Klein were arguing about policy. Mort Klein did not let up. I stood near them, listening to these great men talking.

Borough Park:
After Professor Mordechai Kedar’s lecture, my friend and his wife were walking by me and I said hello. My friend is from Borough Park and would never sit in a Shul next to his wife, would never go to a lecture by an Israeli Intellectual even if he is Frum, yet in Boca he does. This is the magic of Boca Raton Synagogue.

The Four Weisses:
I met four Weisses during these three times in chronological order:

1) Steven I Weiss – http://steveniweiss.com/about/
Steven I Weiss is an investigative journalist, whose work appears on NPR, JTV. He was sitting in the hallway, with his daughter in a stroller and I struck up a conversation. He was reading a book written about torture and he was to interview the author in a few weeks. We spoke about a few issues. He said that he broke the story about YU’s $100MM of investment losses.

2) Farley Weiss – http://www.youngisrael.org/board-members.html
I was privileged to meet Farley Weiss, President of Young Israel. He has moved to the Boca Raton community. His zeal to help the Jewish people is refreshing. I wish him well. I told him the Vort of Reb Moshe Soloveichik. Reb Moshe said that Young Israel saved Orthodoxy in New York. Young Israel was the transition during the first half of the 20th century and into the 1960s, when it was hard to be Orthodox and today. Although the young Jewish families did not have strong connection to Orthodoxy, they belonged to the Young Israel Shuls and stayed within Orthodoxy. Their kids became more Orthodox, and filled the yeshiva and day schools. In Chicago, where the Traditional movement was strong, these same types of Jews belonged to Traditional Shuls did not remain Orthodox. Traditional Shuls do not have , and are not within the world of Orthodoxy. Their members ended up not keeping Shabbos or Kashrus. Their kids moved further away from Orthodoxy.

3) Rabbi Avi Weiss – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avi_Weiss
The Shabbos before Purim, Rabbi Avi Weiss and his wife came to Boca Raton Synagogue for a Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg welcomed Rabbi Avi Weiss to Boca Raton. I spoke for a few minutes to him and told Rabbi Weiss that I love Rabbis Lopatin and Rabbi Wolkenfeld. I told him that I walk 5.5 miles just to be at Anshe Sholem to listen to both Rabbis. The Jewish people owe Rabbi Avi Weiss a thank you for his activism for Russian Jewry when it was not popular.

4) Joseph Weiss
At the Shabbos before Purim, I also saw Joseph Weiss. Joseph Weiss is from Chicago and he retired to Boca Raton Synagogue a few months ago. He has a daughter who lives in Boca Raton Synagogue, and his son-in-law is the head of NCSY in Boca. He is doing an excellent job. I am sad to report that on Purim, Joseph Weiss collapsed and was Niftar. He was able to retire to Boca Raton Synagogue; a place of Torah, Shiurum, Yiddishkiet, great personalities, and his time a BRS was cut short. May your family know no more sorrow.

Looking for Rabbi Michael Steinberg:
I have been looking for Rabbi Michael Steinberg  for years. Michael Stein was my classmate at Arie Crown. The last time I saw him was in 1968 -1969, playing basketball.    He was taller and a better basketball player than myself.  Michael was shirtless and not wearing a Yarmulke. Over the years, I heard that he went to Israel, became a student of Rabbi Gustman, and became a great Torah scholar. He was in Rabbi Gustman’s Yeshiva in Rechavia, called Nezach Yisroel. During my recent trip to Israel, I walked into Netzech Israel and found out the Rabbi Gustman’s Yeshiva fell apart after his death.  Michael Steinberg is a Rosh Kollel, and has a place near the central bus station. I never did find Michael Steinberg. I was watching my grandkids in BRS’s playground and sat next to David Steinber, Michael Steinberg’s nephew. Wow. David grew up in Skokie and I remember his father. The Steinbergs were the only family in our school from Logan Square, located about 7 miles from school. The boys had to take two buses every morning to get to school. Amazingly, at BRS I was sitting next to his nephew, David. David filled my in on Michael’s life. Michael Steinberg has a large family. The only “disappointing” thing is that none of Rabbi Michael Steinberg’s kids served in the IDF. I felt that with Michael growing up in Chicago, going to the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, he could be that Rosh Kollel who bridges the Bnei Brak world, the IDF, and the Dati Leumi world. Maybe he has.

Update –  March 17,2015:

I just met another relative of Rabbi Michal Steinberg.   This relative has kids in the IDF and works for Klal Yisroel.   I would only hope that the kids go to Rabbi Michael Steinberg before entering the IDF for a blessing, Rabbi  Michael Steinberg is there to say Divrei Brachah when his nephew’s unit graduates.  I have to believe that Rabbi Michael Steinberg learns with his nephews.  Michael Stein’s kids and their IDF cousins are united “B’Lev Eichod”.  Rabbi Michael Steinberg goes to give Shiur to the boys in the army base and has his nephew with his platoon spend a Shabbos, Yom Tuv, hear a Chabura in the Kollel.   Anything less would disappointing.


Update – July 21, 2015

I found on Rabbi Dov Lipman’s blog a moving tribute to Max Steinberg, a lone soldier from LA, who was killed in Gaza one year ago defending Israel. I watched the Kiddush Hashem of Max Steinberg,  the clips from his funeral and that over 30,000 people attended.   I expected to see Rabbi Michael Steinberg giving a eulogy, giving a Shiur on his Yahrzeit. Perhaps Max is a relative of Rabbi Michael, however, if not related the similar name should bring closeness. Max Steinberg’s sacrifice should energize the Rabbi Michael Steinberg family, especially, a family of Torah.


156th Yahrzeit of the Kotzker

This coming Tuesday night, February 3, 2015 and extending into Wednesday February 4, 2015 is the 156th Yahrzeit of the Kotzker.  The following is a piece I wrote last year and did not have a chance to put it on my website.  I offer this as my 2015 Yahrzeit speech for the Kotzker.


The Vilna Goan known as the Gra – Reb Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman – lived from 1720 to 1797.  The Kotzker – Reb Menachem Mendel Ben Yehuda Leib lived from 1787 – 1859.   The Kotzker was 10 years old when the Gra passed away.  The Gra was the first Mishnagid while the Kotzker was a Chassidic master.  The Kotzker grew up in a non-Chasidic family and knew about the greatness of the Vilna Goan.   The Gra signed the excommunication against the Chassidim.

Yet I believe that the Kotzker had a grudging admiration for the Gra.  Both were more alike than different and it is a tragedy of Jewish history that the Gra agreed to and signed the excommunication thereby creating a split between the Gra’s world and Kotzker’s  world.   Had they met, they would have embraced in the kiss of Hashem and perhaps brought a new era to the Jewish people.

The Kotzker did interact with the community at large, albeit in a more limited way in the Kotzker ’s later years.   The Gra had almost no contact with the community at large.  The greatness of the Gra was preserved  for later generations due to his 10+- students,  primarily Reb Chaim Voloziner.  Yet the beacon of light extended from Vilna during the Gra’s lifetime, and from Kotzk in the Kotzker’s lifetime.

I question whether anything good came out of this excommunication.  It led to people turning other Jews over to the government and feeling that they are doing holy work by turning people in on charges,  after all there is a ban against Chassidim.    How can someone sign a ban, when his protagonist is equal to him in piety, learning, leadership, and Yiras Shaminaym.  It is the height of arrogance to say that I am Lesham Shamayin, when his opponent, his equal and a leader of men is not for the sake of Heaven.  I believe  the evil effects of the excommunication lasted all the way to the destruction of European Jewry in 1939 – 1945.  This should be a lesson  today of the need for unity.

Page 249 of the book  Amud Haemes brings down one of the only times the Kotzker mentioned the Vilna Goan  The story  is as follows:

One time the Chidusshei Harim and Reb Moshe Michel of Biala were sitting and analyzing a Tosefes.  The Kotzker comes by and says that according to the explanation of the “thief”  of Vilna the words of Tosefes are answered.  When they asked the Kotzker why he called the Goan of Vilna  a “thief”, the Kotzker answered:  At the time the Torah was given and Moshe ascended to the heavens, a number of Souls hid under the cloak of Moshe, went up with Moshe and heard the entire Torah.  One of them was the Goan from Vilna.

I felt that the Kotzker could not come out directly and say how much he admired the Gra, so he did it in a backhanded way. 

I was at Kesser Ma’ariv in Skokie this past Shabbos – March 2014.  The Rabbi is Rabbi Louis Lazovsky, a friend from my days in Brisk Yeshiva.  His mother and my mother worked on the Brisk Yeshiva ad books in the late  1970s.    I found a Sefer in the Shul’s library titled, “The Goan of Vilna and his Messianic Vision” by Dr. Arie Morgenstern.  I am trying to reach Dr. Arie Morgenstern to determine if I am related.  The title was fascinating and I was not disappointed.

How do we picture the Gra?  We picture the ultimate Misnaged, a rationalist cut of the same cloth of the Rambam. Someone who did not delve into Kabbalah and the Messiah.    He is the teacher of Reb Chaim Volzhin, the person who wrote the Nefesh Hachaim to counter the Tanya.  The Gra was the intellectual and theological father of Volzhin and Brisk, Brisker Torah, the Bais Halevi, the Soloveichiks, and the cold rationality of Halacha.

However,   Dr. Arie Morgenstern dispels this vision of the Gra and turns it on its head.  According to Dr. Arie Morgenstern the Gra was a major Kabbalist, believed that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and would happen on or around 1781, felt that he was a vessel for Hashem to bring the Messiah, made plans, and started the journey to move to Eretz Yisroel and got to Amsterdam when he turned back.   How does Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s description of this aspect of the Gra square with the historical Gra known to the Yeshiva world?  It does not at all.  It seems as if this side of the Gra was purposely suppressed because this side of the Gra seems to be a textbook Chassidic master.    The  Gra who rejected and excommunicated Chassidim appears to be no different than the Besht and the Chassidic masters.  

I believe that the Kotzker perhaps desired  the world that the Gra created.   The Gra had few students, did not mix with the general public, hid himself from the world, and was free to devote himself to learning Torah.  As described by Dr. Arie  Morgenstern and detailed below the Gra was also a Kabbalist,   Mishicist, tried to determine when the Messiah would come, and worked to bring the Messiah.  The Kotzker and the Gra were exactly the same:  Great Torah masters, both in the revealed and the hidden parts of the Torah.   Both were also similar in their view of the world which while deeply spiritual  they  had very rationalistic views.  The Gra learned science and mathematics.   The Kotzker gave advice that was practical.  The Kotzker did not go as far as the Gra to bring about the Messiah, in fact little is mentioned on this subject by the Kotzker.
Dr. Arie Morgenstern in his book on pages 292 and 293 talks about the nature of the Gra and about who the excommunication against the Chassidiym. It is attached below.   Read it in sheer amazement, especially what Yehuda Liebes wrote how Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov regarded the Gra.  Read what R. J. Z. Werblowsky wrote.  Haflah VePhlah.  Wondrous.

Dr. Arie Morgenstern writes on page 316, “Everyone contemplated the genius of the Rabbi Elijah of Vilna in amazement and considered his very advent on earth a supernatural act.  Several of his disciples said repeatedly that the Goan earned the revelation of the secrets of the Torah and the true Halacha not only by limitless toil and superhuman talent but also as a reward form God for his prodigious effort, in a chain from the patriarchs to Moses and the prophet Elijah.”

The Goan’s genius is attributed as a supernatural act, almost from God himself.    The Kotzker is his comments above acknowledged the same by stating that the Gra was a “thief” when he ascended to Heaven with Moshe, also attributed the genius of the Gra directly from God in a backhanded way.

Both the Kotzker and the Gra believed that Moshiach can come in a supernatural act or Kimah, Kimah – natural means but having people start making Aliyah and through building up the land. The Gra through his students who made Sliyah (the Rivlin and Solomon families, Reb Menacham Mendel of Shklov and his brother) and the Kotzker through his grandson’s Sefer, Shoelm Yershalim, and his grandson’s desire to start an agricultural community of 1,000 families.


Postscript – Last week I was in Israel and on January 27, 2015, I was fortunate to meet with Dr. Arie (Aryeh) Morgenstern.   It was a great meeting.  I received an autographed copy of his Sefer, The Goan of Vilna and his Messianic Vision.   Dr. Arie Morgenstern has written at least 10 books.  He is one of the authors on the recent book on the history of the Chuvra Shul, written in conjunction  with the rebuilding of the Chuvra Shul in 2014.   Dr. Arie Morgenstern has lectured on the Goan and the history of the Jewish community in Israel over the last 200 years.  We are probably not related.  Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s grandfather was named Menachem Mendel, however, usually, the family would have had a tradition that they are descendants from the Kotzker and Dr. Morgenstern has no such tradition.  Even though,  Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s family is from near Lodz and some of the Kotzker’s grandchildren from his second wife settled in the Lodz area.



Parshas VaYeira – November 8, 2014

It is getting colder in Chicago, but still nice. I received the Sefer Sholem Yershalim and we will have our Shiur at Kins this Sunday night at 8:45 PM.

Chapter 18, Verse 19 (from Chabad.org):

  1. 19. For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him.”
יט. כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא יְהֹוָה עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר

What does the Hebrew word, יְדַעְתִּיו , mean and how is it translated.   The plain meaning is “to know”.  The Bible and common usage is that the phrase “to know” as something more intimate, something about the nature of a person, I know his or her attributes greatness, etc.

What does the Hebrew word   לְמַעַן mean.  It means either 1) for the sake of, in order to  or 2) because of.

Onklys and the Rishonim translate as follows.

1) Onklys – Pashut translation – “I know that he will command his children”

This is the standard translation in Klal Yisraol.  I have chosen Avrohom because I know that he will command his children.

2) Rashi – I know him – I love him.

 Rashi says:

For I have known him: Heb. יְדַעְתִּיו, an expression of love, like (Ruth 2:1) “a kinsman (מוֹדַע) of her husband”; (ibid. 3:2) “And now, Boaz our kinsman (מֹדַעְתָּנוּ)”; (Exod. 33:17): “and I shall know you (וָאֵדָעֲךָ) by name.” But, in fact, the primary meaning of them all is none other than an expression of knowing, for if one loves a person, he draws him near to himself and knows him and is familiar with him. Now why do I love him? “Because he commands” … for he commands his sons concerning Me, to keep My ways. But if you explain it as the Targum renders: “I know about him that he will command his sons, etc.,” the word לְמַעַן does not fit into the sense [of the verse].

3) Ranban, Pshat #1

I know his greatness.

 4) Ranban, Pshat #2 – See Rabanu Bachyaa.

The Ranban say there are two types of Divine Guidance, Hasgacha, and Providence in this world.     Most people and Righteous people. Read the Hebrew and the below English translation. When you read the Hebrew, at first blush it seems that God for most people lets the world run itself, look at Reb Samson Raphael Hirsch. See also the Rabbinu Bachaya

Rabbi Chavel translates the Ranban into English as follows:

“The correct interpretation appears to me to be that the word yedativ literally means “knowing.” He is thus alluding that God’s knowledge, with is synonymous with His Providence in the lower word, is to guard the species, and even the children of men are subject despite it to the circumstantial evil occurrences until the time of their visitation comes. But as regards to His Pious, He directs His Providence to know each one individually so that His work constantly attaches to to him, His knowledge and remembrance of home never departs, as it says: He withdraweth not His eyes for the righteous. There are many verses on this theme, as it is written, Behold, the eye of the Eternal is toward then that fear Him, and other verses besides.”

See Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin for his explanation in the Oznayim LaTorah.

See Professor Nechama Lebowitz, page 167 for her explanation.

1) Chabad.org above, “For I have known him because he commands his sons”

   Onklys – Pashut translation – “I know that he will command his children”

2) Artscroll, “ For I loved him, for he will command his children”

  Rashi – I love him

3) Soncino, “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children”

Footnote – Known him, i.e. loved him. This is a secondary meaning of ‘know’, for one      who loves another brings him near to him and thus knows him,

 4) Rabbi Hertz – “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children”.

Footnote:   for I have known him. i.e. regarded and chosen him.

I think Rabbi Hertz is based on Onklys. Rabbi Hertz says, “for I  have known him. i.e. regarded and chosen him.”   As I said before this is the standard explanation the Jews have used for years.

5) The Pentateuch, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, “For I have given him My special Care so that he will command his children”.

Ranban, Pshat #2.

Footnote –  “But those who offer themselves to be His instrument on earth, who strive with their whole existence and activities to fulfill His Will, and leave everything else to Him, they form a complete contrast and God takes them under His special guidance and care (protection). This is what is called Yaidah”

“However, people whose attitude towards God is just casual, who treads the paths of God just if and when it happens to suit him, “BeKeri”, . . .       To him God also turns and leaves him to the haphazard chances of life.”

Reb Samson Raphael Hirsch’s translation of לְמַעַן – “so that he will” is problematic. It seems that God gave Avrohom “special Care” so that Avrohom will be able to properly teach his kids.


Toras Lech Lacha – November 1, 2014:

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Another great Shabbos of Torah. I attended three classes given by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion http://www.haretzion.org. They classes were on the Mitzva of Shmitta, letting the land of Israel lay fallow every seven years. Rabbi Rimon is one of the foremost experts on the laws of Shmitta and he brings an enthusiasm about keeping Shmitta.

Rav Yosef-Tzvi Rimon
Ram in Yeshivat Her Etzion

Rav Yosef-Tzvi Rimon studied at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem and joined Yeshivat Har Etzion in 1987. He served in the Armored Corps in the context of his army service in the Hesder Program and earned a Bachelor of Education degree from the Herzog College. He has served as a Ram in the Yeshiva since 1996 and also teaches classes in halacha for the entire Yeshiva. In 2001, Rav Rimon headed the Halacha Program in the Yeshiva’s Kollel, and published a book “Shiurei Shevi’it” on the laws of Shemitta. Today, Rav Rimon serves as a neighborhood Rav in Alon Shevut, and as a Ram for first-year students in the Yeshiva. He publishes study sheets on various halachic topics and teaches at the Herzog College and at the Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz.

 The following is the Torah I spoke and thought about on Shabbos.

Last year Rabbi Efrem Goldberg talked about the end of Parsha Noach where Terach (Avrom’s father) leave Ur Casdim to go to the land of Canaan. Terach gets to Haran and settles there. In Lech Lecha, God tells Avrum, leave your home and go to the land of Canaan. This got me thinking and I put together the following Torah thought.

כו. וַיְחִי תֶרַח שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד אֶת אַבְרָם אֶת נָחוֹר וְאֶת הָרָן:  
  1. 27. And these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begot Lot.
  כז. וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת אַבְרָם אֶת נָחוֹר וְאֶת הָרָן וְהָרָן הוֹלִיד אֶת לוֹט:
  1. 28. And Haran died during the lifetime of Terah his father in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldees.
  כח. וַיָּמָת הָרָן עַל פְּנֵי תֶּרַח אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתּוֹ בְּאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים:
during the lifetime of Terah his father: lit. on the face of Terah his father. During his father’s lifetime (Tan. Acharei 7). And the Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 38:13) tells us that he died on account of his father. For Terah complained about Abram his son before Nimrod for crushing his idols; so he [Nimrod] cast him [Abram] into a fiery furnace, and Haran sat and thought, “If Abram is victorious, I am on his side, and if Nimrod is victorious, I am on his side.” When Abram was saved, they said to Haran, “Whose side are you on?” Haran said to them, “I am on Abram’s side!” They cast him into the fiery furnace and he was burned. This is the meaning of אוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, the fire of the Chaldees. Menachem (Machbereth, p. 32), however, explains אוּר as a valley, and so (Isa. 24:15): “in the crevices (בָּאוּרִים) honor the Lord,” and so, (ibid. 11:8): “over the hole of (מְאוּרַת) an old snake.” Any hole or deep crevice is called אוּר.   על פני תרח אביו: בחיי אביו. ומדרש אגדה יש אומרים שעל ידי אביו מת, שקבל תרח על אברם בנו לפני נמרוד על שכתת את צלמיו והשליכו לכבשן האש, והרן יושב ואומר בלבו אם אברם נוצח, אני משלו, ואם נמרוד נוצח, אני משלו. וכשניצל אברם אמרו לו להרן משל מי אתה, אמר להם הרן משל אברם אני. השליכוהו לכבשן האש ונשרף, וזהו אור כשדים. ומנחם בן סרוק פירש אור בקעה, וכן (ישעיה כד טו) באורים כבדו ה’, וכן (שם יא ח) מאורת צפעוני. כל חור ובקע עמוק קרוי אור:
  1. 29. And Abram and Nahor took themselves wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.
  כט. וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם נָשִׁים שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם שָׂרָי וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת נָחוֹר מִלְכָּה בַּת הָרָן אֲבִי מִלְכָּה וַאֲבִי יִסְכָּה:
  1. 30. And Sarai was barren; she had no child.
  ל. וַתְּהִי שָׂרַי עֲקָרָה אֵין לָהּ וָלָד:
  1. 31. And Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan, and they came as far as Haran and settled there.
  לא. וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן הָרָן בֶּן בְּנוֹ וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד חָרָן וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם:
and they went forth with them: And Terah and Abram went forth with Lot and Sarai.   ויצאו אתם: ויצאו תרח ואברם עם לוט ושרי:
  1. 32. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
  לב. וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי תֶרַח חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן:


Compare Verse 31 to Verse 5 below. Both Avrum and Terach left to go to the land of Canaan. Avrum by commandment of God and Terach of his own decision.

ה. וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם אֶת שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן אָחִיו וְאֶת כָּל רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכָשׁוּ וְאֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן וַיֵּצְאוּ לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן:

  1. 5. And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.




1) Why did Terach leave Ur Casidim? Terach brought Avrum to Nimrod to pass judgment on Avrom’s rebellion against idol worship. Nimrod threw Avrom into the fiery furnace, where God protected Avrom and saved him from the fire.

2) Why did Terach want to go to Canaan?

3) Is Terach an evil man or a decent person?

4) Avrom went to Canaan because of Gods commandment and Terach made the decision on his own. Avrom had to be pushed and Terach understood to go by himself.

5) Verse 30 says that Avrom’s wife, Sarai, was barren and the next Verse 31 says that Terach picked up his family and left Ur Casdim. The fact that Sarai was barren has nothing to do with the narrative. Does its proximity to Verse 31 mean anything?

6) Verse 31 first says that Terach took his family and the middle said “they” took them. Per Rashi the “they” is Terach and Avrom. Which one is it?


There appears to be a disagreement among the Rishonim.

The last Rashi in Noach and the Rabbanu Bachya both say that Terach was an evil man. Rashi says that Terach even in his lifetime was considered dead, because evil people even while alive are considered dead. The Ranban asks on this Rashi from Chapter 15, verse 15 where Rashi says that Terach was repentant. The Ranban answers perhaps Terach repented upon his deathbed or perhaps he never repented but the merit of Avrom granted Terach a portion in the world to come. According to Rashi why did Terach leave Ur Casdim. No idea. Perhaps, Terach could no longer live in Ur Casdim because his son was a rebel or maybe because even though Terach was evil, his love for his son overcame his evil impulses.

The Seforno and the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh both seem to say that Terach was a decent man.

The Seforno says that Terach left to go to Canaan because Canaan was a higher spiritual place. However, Terach did not make it to Canaan. He only made it to Haran and “settled there”. As Rabbi Goldberg, said we all have the capacity to attain higher and higher spirituality if we do not settle for less.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says on verse 31 that the reason why Terach left Ur Casdim was due to Sarai not having children. When Terach saw Sarai not having children he decided to change his place of dwelling and took his family to another location based on the concept in the Talmud, Baba Metziah, 75b, “Mishana Makom, Mishana Mazel”, one who changes his place changes his luck. The Ohr HaChaim Hakodosh adds that Avrom was held in such esteem that the entire family uprooted themselves for the sake of Avrom. It thus appears that Terach repented after he saw what Nimrod did to his son and that Avrom was saved.  Rashi uses verse 32 to say that Terach was evil and the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh has a different explanation.

The answer to question 4 is that both Avrom and Teach understood that Canaan was on a higher spiritual level. They both wanted to leave Ur Casdim and perhaps this is the reason why Verse 31 in the middle say, they – Terach and Avrom went out from Ur Casdim. When Teach settled in Haran and stopped his journey, Avrum intended to stay with his father because of the Mitzvah of honoring his father. Avrum was planning to wait until his father died to continue the journey. God had to tell Avrum, go to Canaan, leave your father; I am telling you that you are free from observing the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents.

The first Ibn Ezra on Parshas Lech Lecha goes along with this approach and says a big Chiddush,  The commandment of God to Avrom  of “Lech Lacha – go out of your father’s house”, was actually said in Ur Casdim.  The Ranban disagrees with the Ibn Ezra, however, the Ranban can be answered and the Ibn Ezra mkaes sense.

Chazzan Silber on the phrase “Mishana Makom, Mishana Mazel”, one who changes his place changes his luck, told the following story.

Chazzan Silber learned with Rabbi Hecht for many years. Rabbi Hecht was an unappreciated righteous man in Chicago, a Torah scholar. One night when they were learning Rabbi Hecht asked Chazzan Silber, “what do you think about Mishana Makom”. Chazzan Silber said nothing. Over the course of learning that night, Rabbi Hecht asked three more times and each time Chazzan Silber said nothing. The next morning Chazzan Silber was at work at an important meeting, and Mrs. Silber, walks into her husband’s and said that Rabbi Hecht passed away. Chazzan Silber wondered for years, what if He, Chazzan Silber, told Rabbi Hecht, it is not a good idea to change your place; what if, what if.







Parshas Noah

The below is Martin from LA’s comment on this weeks Torah potion, Parshas Noah.   In red are my comments.  Martin from LA is a student of Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.   As as result I consider myself a student of the Chief Rabbi and have been inspired by the Chief Rabbi’s Torah.   Martin from LA is my cousin, my friend, and my co-marathoner.   At least he is still running and I am not.  

 Noah’s Failure

The Torah readings continue with the introduction to Noah and the flood story. Virtually every culture has a similar story. That Noah and the flood are mythical is irrelevant. The myriad lessons contained therein are of import.

I only take issue with you in this entire piece that Noah and the flood are mythical.  The Torah cannot make up stories of our history, especially after reading the first Rashi in the Chumash.  The problem then is separating myth from fact.  I believe the entire story happened.   My kids completely agree with you.

Noah is a perplexing character. He is described in the Torah, at the beginning of the eponymous Sedra, Noach, as a righteous man, faultless and walking with God!

He, alone in the Hebrew Bible has such appellations! Abraham and Moses, for example, do not come close.

But, despite such praise, the man that was supposed to save the world and rebuild it anew, in the end couldn’t even save himself as he wallowed in a drunken stupor and was an embarrassment to his children, and according to one opinion, sexually assaulted by his so Ham. And unlike Adam and Eve previously, who were ashamed of their nakedness, he was not even aware of his nudity.

How could this be? The man seemed to be the paradigm of religiosity, obeying every jot and tittle of God’s commands to him.

The Sages, in their Midrashic analysis of the flood parable, give Noah short shrift indeed. He is heavily criticized for not doing more to try to encourage a depraved humanity to repent and perhaps prevent the oncoming deluge. In fact he did nothing, but just busied himself meticulously following the minutiae of the ark’s blueprints.

Never understood the criticism.  No one would have listened.  Maybe Noah felt that the proper way is to live a religious  life by example.  Abraham’s defense of Sodom on its surface appears to be misplaced mercy for a society that choose brutality with their riches over a just society.  Abraham should have said, I will go and teach them.  I was only satisfied in Abraham’s defense when I answered the question of misplaced mercy,  that of course, Abraham was not saying let Sodom be spared any judgment.  He told God or understood God, that God will punish them for their evil ways, just not to destroy them.  If you do not say this,  then Abrohom is a fool.  I have not found a source for this, but this has to be the understanding.

 The Sages were particularly disturbed by his unwillingness to leave the ark after the floodwaters had subsided. Despite being certain that the land was now dry he only finally debarked because God instructed him. The Sages excoriated him for this. He was to be performing the most vital role in human history, the reconstructing of a shattered world and he dallied in the comfort and safety of his home not prepared to take the risks necessary for his daunting task until God approved his exit.

Abraham did not sit back in quiet obedience when God told him of the impending destruction of Sodom.

The Kotzker criticized Abraham that when God told him that his children will  go through a bitter slavery, Abraham did not protest and scream GVALT, my kids will be exiled for 400 years and will have to go to slavery!   They will have a holocaust!

Likewise, Moses did not await God’s permission to act on the injustices he saw in Egypt.

The Sages, who claimed that they would have torn down the walls of the ark and taken themselves out, were teaching us in this Midrash that to build a better society, you do not await permission.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, (amongst others) even before the storm clouds of Europe began to darken warned European Jewry of the approaching destruction and begged them to leave and go to help build what was to become the State of Israel, a process that had begun 50 years or so previously. He was mostly ignored.

Some simply comfortable in their current surroundings, others claiming, that just like Noah before them, were exemplary in the observance of the God’s commandments, that a Jewish State can only be built with God’s permission.

The result was catastrophic.

You are correct.

No disease has been cured, no technology invented for the benefit of society, no hungry child fed, no poor have been clothed and no State has been built  by those that prefer to sit in an ark studying and even devising more minutiae than taking the courage to create a better world.

We need a balance.  We need Torah scholars and we need builders.  We need them in sync, each understanding their roles.  We need Torah and the scholars to provide this radiant glow that positively affects everything it shines on.  A foundation stone for a Jewish society to be built based on the Torah, just values, charity, and Torah knowledge.

This is my theme of Kotzk and when I write the definitive book on Kotzk, I will touch upon this very subject.  On the surface, the Kotzker seems to have withdrawn from this world for 19 years, when in reality he was a major  leader and leading the Jewish world.

“Devising more minutiae”.

Both Reb Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, the Meshak Chocmah and Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kook would agree with you.

 Shabbat Shalom

 The Haftora.

The Hebrew bible consists of 3 sections. The Torah, which Orthodoxy believes is the revealed word of God. Followed by the Prophets, that section from Joshua, through Judges, Kings, and the various 15 Prophets, and finally Writings, such as Psalms, Proverbs, Esther and a bunch of others that you may or may not of heard of. The Haftora is a short reading taken from the 2nd section, that either has a connection to the Torah reading or the season, and is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading. How it came to be, nobody knows. There have been many speculative guesses, and the most well-known and promoted ad nauseum in the Orthodox world, may be the silliest. That is, the Greeks (and later the Romans), banned the public reading of Torah, but we fooled ’em by substituting another section of the Bible.) Personally, I prefer the argument that the Haftora reading was a polemic against sectarians who rejected anything other than the Torah itself as being part of the Jewish cannon.

Regardless of it’s genesis, it’s very ancient, at least 2000 years old, and is universal in practice throughout all denominations(There are occasional differences on the choice of Haftora)



Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, TZL

I received this unfortunate e-mail on Friday, Eruv Yom Kippur.  The funeral is later today in Beit Semesh.  The comment sums up the loss we all feel.  It is the passing of an era.


I am so sorry to send you sad news. I had such joy from reading your remarks about Rav Yehuda on your blog.

Now, an era has passed. I have lost my teacher, my friend, my father. I know that, apart from his immediate family, many will feel as I do. Baruch Dayan Ha’Emes!

I wish you and yours Gmar Chasima Tova.


ברוך דיין האמת 

October 3, 2014


Boca Raton Synagogue records with sorrow the passing of our esteemed member, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, beloved husband of Mrs. Hassia Yehuda.


The funeral will be held in Israel on Sunday evening, October 5th at the city of Beit Shemesh Cemetery.


Hassia and her family will sit shiva from Sunday night through Wednesday early afternoon at Rechov HaTziporen 10b, Beit Shemesh, Israel.  They can be reached at 011-972-2-999-2936 when dialing from America or 02-999-2936 from Israel.


Messages of condolences can be sent to the family at 22166 Trillium Way, Boca Raton, Fl. 33433.


May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Rabbi Efrem Goldberg          Rabbi Philip Moskowitz


If you would like to make a donation in

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda’s memory, please click here.


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