Parshas Va’Yigash: December 21-22, 2017

Tough week at work.  Happy to see Shabbos come.  My two boys, Sholem and Tzvi, drove to Florida, to spend a month there.  They made it to my daughter in Boynton Beach on Thursday at about 6:00 PM.  I was full of joy.  My three kids were together in Southern Florida.  Eli ate by a friend on Friday night, so we had a quiet Shabbos.

I would like to wish Dr. Yosef and Dr. Joyce Morgan and his wife a huge Mazel Tov.  Their son, David, married Rachel in Tzfas, Israel.  What a Simcha and I wish I was there.  I love you Yosef and Joyce.

This week I want to remind everyone of the Minhag in Klal Yisroel to eat Chinese food on the 25th and go to a movie.  I told my boss (who is not Frum) that, as you know among Orthodox Jews, we always have questions and different guidelines.  I said, jokingly, that there is a question when the Minhag of Chinese food starts on the 24th after sunset or on the 25th.

Shabbos Morning December 23, 2017:

Shabbos morning I walked to Anshe Sholem.  I needed the walk and  wanted to hear a great speech.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld obliged.  I saw Dr. David Passman, the super Jew Jack Berger, Herb Eiseman, Norm Levits and his wife.  Norm is from Krinik and my Zedi is also from Krinik.  He told me that when he went back to visit Krinik in 2010, Krinik was as backward as when his family left in 1920.  What I found interesting is that as I looked around the Shul, it seemed  like there has been a 50% turnover of congregants.  I saw more single guys than Talasim.  I left the Shul after Kiddush at 12:45 PM and got home at 2:30 PM.  It was cold going home.  It was about 29 degrees and I needed to wear the hood on my jacket, however, I like to have my Yarmulke showing so as to have people say Good Shabbos to me. I put on the hood once I got north on Clark street, which has less people.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld stated that in this Parsha there were three different interactions with Pharaoh, with power;  Yosef, Yaakov, and Yehuda.

  • Yosef was part of the power structure.  He was loyal to Pharaoh and made Pharaoh very wealthy.
  • Yaakov on the other hand says, the days of the years of my sojourns have been 130 years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life .  .  .   Yaakov seemed to react as the curmudgeon old Jew who, when asked how things are going, always responds “Oh  Vey, things are bad, this is no good and this is a problem.” Rabbi Wolkenfeld said beautifully.    As Yaakov was on his way to  Egypt, God appears in a dream (Chapter 46, Verses 1-4) and says:  “Do not fear descending to Egypt, I will go down with you and I will bring you up.”   Yaakov knew that eventually his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt.  This is why Yaakov is not in the moment when  visiting g Pharaoh.  He dismissed Pharaoh.  Yaakov was focused on the destiny of Klal Yisroel.  Pharaoh meant nothing to Yaakov and Yaakov knew the Pharaoh or his descendants will enslave  the Jewish people.  Yaakov had no interest in dialoging with Pharaoh.  Maybe Yaakov was hinting this to Pharaoh, just like my days were bad, you will continue the bad by enslaving my children.
  • Yehuda on the other hand stood up to Yosef who Yehuda thought was Ki’Pharaoh. Yehuda was respectful.

Full text of Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s drashas, more or less, are now up on the shul’s Facebook page and should be up on the shul’s website on Tuesday. (You can go to asbi.org, click on “library” and then click on “sermons” for most of the drashot from the past 5 years).

Please look at the Ranban on Chapter 47, Verse 14.   Focus on the last line of the Ranban, which is phenomenal and something that answers a question  on Yosef’s actions of having the Egyptians buying the food and not giving it to them.

My Torah on this week is as follows.

When Yosef reveals himself to his brother and says. “I am Yosef, is my father still alive, and they could not answer because they were embarrassed.”  The plain understanding is that Yosef was rebuking them, he was angry at them for selling him.  Once he got it off his chest, he  mellowed out.

However, based on another Verse, we can say a different explanation of the dialogue.  In last week’s Torah portion, Chapter 41, Verse 51.  “And Yosef called his first born son, Menashe, because God has made me forget all my  hardship and all my father’s household. “   Yosef had everything, he went form a slave to being the second  most powerful man in Egypt, he got the pretty wife, had a son, and God was with him in everything he did.  He could not make a wrong decision. Not only that, his wife was the daughter of Dinah (per the Medresh).  It was his niece.   By marrying Dinah’s daughter, the house of Yaakov was made whole.   As a result Yosef was no longer angry.  He was able to forget the  wrong that happened to him.  Of course, Yosef missed his father dearly and longed for the day he would be reunited with his father.  When the brothers came to him, he saw the first dream coming true and he was waiting for the second dream to become true, and only then would he reveal who he was.  When Yosef said,” I am Yosef, is my father still alive.” He was  not rebuking them, Yosef had moved beyond his anger and his negative feelings towards his brothers.  He was stating a fact, “I am Joseph”  then “Is my father alive.”  Meaning, you said my father is alive, is this true, or did you say it just to say what you think I wanted to hear.  Obviously, just Yosef saying, “I am Joseph” is the biggest rebuke of their actions, even if not meant as a rebuke.  Yosef personally  bore zero bad feelings towards his brothers.    Imagine how they could live with themselves for the rest of their life.  Yosef sincerely said to them, it was not your actions, but Gods actions.

When God is good to someone and things are going well, or you are older, retired, and you are having an easy retirement, with enough money to live a good life,  then all the slights and insults, the things that went wrong over the years , should  melt away.  You have zero excuse to be angry or fight.  If you hold onto past and present slights and hurts, you deny God’s goodness.   You must be gracious to your fellow man, because God is gracious to you.  Even if you feel that your smarts did it for you, you still have no reason to bear grudges.   Life is good.  You can go home and relax because you have no issues.

 

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THREE SHABBOSIM AND FOUR SYNOGAGUES

Over the last three weeks I davened at four different Synagogues.

 

  • Sephardic Shul of East Boca Raton – Parshas Re’ah – August 22, 2014 –
  • Congregation Yagdil Torah. East Boca Raton – Parshas Ra’ah – August 23, 2014
  • Anshei Sholem, Chicago – Parshas Shoftim – August 30, 2014
  • KJBS, Rabbi Franks Shul, Chicago – Parshas Ki Tza’zah – September 6, 2014

 As I am writing this at 9:15 PM, Sunday September 7th, my daughter is on her flight to Israel for her year at seminary at Michlala. She should have a successful year of study in Israel. I was excited for her as a number of her high school friends were on the flight.

 Highlights:

August 22, 2014 – Sephardic Shul of East Boca Raton – Parshas Re’ah:

I got to the regular East Boca Shul at 7:45 PM, however, they prayed earlier at 7:00 PM. I asked where the Sephardic Shul was located and I got blank stares. One guy knew where it was and he walked me part of the way. I arrived at the Sephardic Shul at 8:30 PM, forty minutes after sunset.   The streets were isolated and pitch black, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  I found a ray of light in the darkness.   I was very happy to be able to pray properly despite the late hour. They were at Lacha Dodi, halfway through the services. It was a typical Sephardic congregation, with a number of people in colored shirts and blue jeans. Everyone is accepted in Sephardic Shuls.   Services were over at 8:55 PM, over one hour after sunset. Sephardim really pray. There is zero tolerance for talking. Sephardim as a community have inherited the true legacy of prayer service.

August 23, 2014 – Congregation Yagdil Torah. East Boca Raton – Parshas Ra’ah:

This is the only Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim Shul in the world. Very nice. The Rov is a Talmud Chochem. I met a friend from Toronto who has a vacation home in East Boca. I told him a Vort from Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, which is a Professor Nechama Lebowitz Lomdeshi explanation. During the week I Davened at Yagdil Torah. On Wednesday night, the Rov gave a Shiur as part of their JEC – Ba’al Tshuvah program. It was on the seventh of the Rambam’s 13 essential beliefs of faith. It was excellent and I asked the Rov why this is not taught in Yeshivas.

I love speeches.  The Rabbi’s  speech on Shabbos morning was good and compelling.  It was a Mussar speech, which linked together Reb Yisroel Salanter, the Chofetz Chaim,  and  others in the world of Mussar.   A friend in Telz Stone used to send me his Rabbi’s Shabbos speeches.  Every speech was Mussar  and I let my friend know that he is missing the richness of Torah.    I rarely hear a Mussar speech, as most Rabbis speak about a great insight into the Sedra, the greatness of Klal Yisroel, and current events.

August 30, 2014 – Anshei Sholem, Chicago – Parshas Shoftim:

One of my favorite Shuls in America. I went to hear Torah from the Rov. I sat down for the Torah reading and as I read the weekly bulletin, I saw that my friend’s daughter is getting married, and the Auf Ruf of her groom is at Anshei Sholem that Shabbos. I looked around and did not see my friend. At the upstairs main Minyan there was a Bat Mitzvah. I ran downstairs and the Auf Ruf was at the early Minyan. I saw my friend and wished him a Mazel Tov, hugged him, and told him I am crashing his daughter’s Labor Day wedding.  My study partner from Beis Midrash was also at Anshei Sholem, and my Toronto’s family acquaintance from the Sha’ari Shomayin Shul in Toronto was at Anshei Sholem visiting his children. I got married at the Sha’ari Shomayim Shul in 1980.  He told me that the Rov from that time, Rabbi Hoshander is still living in Toronto.  I read some of Rabbi Hoshander’s speeches from the 1960s in the RCA speech manuals.  They are rather good.

I did crash the wedding. Many people I knew from Boca Raton were in attendance and I stayed to the end of the wedding. I was very happy for my friend as he mentored my daughter in Boca Raton. I met his family. The Lubavtich Shilach from Brandeis University was there and he knew my two cousins’ kids who are students at Brandeis. He took a selfie of us two and sent it to my cousin’s kid. I saw Rabbi Perry Tirschwell of Young Israel Synagogue services and reminded him that the last time I saw him was a year earlier at my cousin’s wedding in Baltimore.

 September 6, 2014 – KJBS, Rabbi Franks Shul, Chicago – Parshas Ki Tza’zah:

Rabbi Dr. Meir Yaakov Soloeveichik was scholar in residence. He spoke three times and I heard all of his speeches. They were excellent. He said some great stories of Menachem Begin. He talked about Margret Thatcher’s Rabbi, Lord Emmanuel Jacobowitz. It is a great story of the Chief Rabbi  Jacobowitz being a “light to the nations of the world”.  Reb Shamshon Raphael Hirsch’s true student. 

 

Toras Anshe Sholem

Parshas Toldos, November 2, 2013:

This Shabbos morning I walked to Anshe Sholem because I needed the walk and the beautiful davening at Anshe Sholem.

1)   David, a member whose family goes back over 50 years at Anshei Sholem, and I were walking to the Kiddush.  We passed the area for strollers, which had close to 30 strollers, and I said to David, isn’t is great to see all of these strollers   David told me that when Rabbi Lopatin first came to Anshei Sholem, there were more funerals than Bar Mitzvahs.  Rabbi Asher Lopatin built up the Shul, and now they have far more Bar Mitzvahs than funerals.  This does not include Bat Mitzvah’s, numerous Brisim, and naming of girls at the Shul.  Rabbi Lopatin has moved on to run Yeshiva Chovevi Torah, and has turned over leadership to Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, a worthy successor.

Many institutions can learn from Rabbi Asher Lopatin.  May Rabbi Asher Lopatin continued success in his new position and continue to teach Torah.

2)  Rabbi Wolkenfeld said a beautiful insight on this Passuk.

21. And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived.  

כא. וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַיהֹוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ כִּי עֲקָרָה הִוא וַיֵּעָתֶר לוֹ יְהֹוָה וַתַּהַר רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ:

The word       לְנֹכַח      according to the Rashbam is  “for” so the Passuk is saying that Yitzchok prayed for his wife, because she was barren.   Yitzchok did not pray for himself, he prayed for his wife.  His needs were not important; he prayed that his wife’s needs should be taken care of by God. Rashi adds another dimension.  Rashi used the common translation of       לְנֹכַח        “opposite” saying that Yitzchok prayed in one corner and Rivka in another corner.  

 The following is from Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s speech.

“And Yitzhak pleaded with Hashem because of his wife, for she was barren.”  Rivka’s infertility is a reason for Yitzhak himself to approach God. It’s relevant to him!  He doesn’t take a second wife or a concubine – he’s the only one of our patriarchs who was able to successfully remain monogamous – instead he understands that Rivka’s infertility is his problem too. The significance and relevance of Yitzhak’s behavior should be obvious. When a spouse is suffering, that isn’t his or her problem – it’s my problem. And the same is true for a sister or a brother or a parent or a child. Indeed, each member of a sanctified community, a Kehila Kedosha, a shul community, has a covenantal responsibility to each other. The problems of the other are my problems too.

But there’s a further level of significance and further level of relevance. Yitzhak is described as praying, “l’nokhah,” his wife. This word, “l’nokhah,” is most commonly understood to mean “on behalf” or “for” – Yitzhak prayed for Rivka. But it can also mean, and indeed its most literal meaning is, “in the presence of” and this meaning was picked up by the Midrash and later quoted by Rashi. Yitzhak prayed in the presence of Rivka. In Rashi’s words, “Yitzhak stood in one corner, and Rivka in another corner, and they prayed.”

We are very often praying “l’nokhah” someone who isn’t actually right next to us. They are in our mind’s eye and at the forefront of our consciousness when we pray, even though we are in one corner, and they are someplace else. Sometimes we pray l’nokhah a close relative suffering from a serious illness. Sometimes we are praying l’nokhah a friend who is unemployed or facing financial challenges. Sometimes we pray “l’nokhah a parent or grandparent who has been dead for many years, yet whose memory inspires and infuses our relationship with God.

 Nobody else can possibly know with whom or for whom one is praying in this internal way.

Rabbi Hershel Cohen a’h was the associate rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York when I first began attending shul regularly in high school. He taught the five-minute Halakhah lesson between Mincha and Maariv each day and the seriousness with which he prayed and the care with which he cultivated a life of careful observance of mitzvot remain inspiring. He once told us about being approached by a mourner during shivah with the following question: Last week, when my parent was alive, fighting for life, I came to shul to pray on behalf of my parent, to plead with God for more time – and specific individual– who sits near me in shul – talked throughout the Misheberakh for Holim, distracting me from my prayers and demonstrating absolutely no sensitivity to my intense need to pray at that moment.  Now my parent is dead and this person wants to visit my home and offer condolences and I don’t want to see that person!

 Yitzhak teaches us that when we pray, we can have the intense existential distress of someone else, or of ourselves, in mind, and so we need to have the highest possible level of sensitivity when in the presence of someone at prayer. They could be struggling with a heavy burden.

Yitzhak taught us something else by praying “l’nokhah” – in the presence of Rivka. The Midrash and Rashi explain that Rivka and Yitzhak both prayed, and prayed with an awareness of each other, but did so in their own space. Prayer requires cultivating a sense of inwardness, interiority, and personal authenticity. Even when we are together as a congregation, we need to be able to generate the privacy that can enable true prayer – the encounter between an individual and God.  That isn’t easy to accomplish.

 3)  The scholar in residence was Sargent Benjamin Anthony.   Sargent Benjamin Anthony founded Our Solders Speak, http://oursoldiersspeak.org.  He was excellent.  He was articulate, confident, and clearly stated why he fights, to protect Jews.   I wish I could capture the emotion in his speech, the Ahavas Yisroel.   Sargent Anthony is a combat reservist for the IDF and is from Leeds, England.  Our Soldiers Speak brings front line Israeli troops to speak on college campuses and to high school kids in 5+ countries.    He emphasized that kids in college defending Israeli are also front line troops.  We have to educate our kids to be able to speak up for Israel on college campuses.    His toughest campus was Brandeis University, a Jewish oriented university.   Unfortunately, many Jewish kids support the Palestinian cause.  In high school they love Israel emotionally, and are never taught the underlying reasons for the State of Israel on an intellectual basis, to refute the distortions from the left and the Palestinians.   Our kids have to be taught before college why Israel is the Jewish homeland, why we are entitled to Israel.   He said that in 2006 while he was in the second Lebanon war and in an open troop carrier, heading to an Arab Village that was full of Hezbollah troops, he focused on two things.  The deserted town of Kiryat Shimonah and the 23rd Psalm,   “Thou I walk in the valley of death, I will not fear because God is with me.”   While the truck was moving, they passed between houses and were in the valley of death.   A barrage of fire opened up on them.  A bullet passed between Sargent Benjamin Anthony and his fellow soldier sitting inches apart.  He can still recall the whirling sound of that bullet going past his ear.   Three soldiers sitting across from him, told him to get down.  He couldn’t because he was loaded with gear.  They sprang up, exposing themselves, and laid down a barrage of fire to protect him.  This is why he fights for the IDF and there is no distinction between secular and religious soldiers.  

4)  Introducing Sargent Benjamin Anthony was Jack Berger.  Jack Berger is a pleasure to listen to and takes no prisoners.  When he speaks about Israel, he is like Hart Hasten, and others, who are not embarrassed to call out anyone speaking who says a distortion about Israel.  Sargent Anthony is a young Jack Berger and a Hart Hasten.

5)  At Kiddush, I met my cousin Amy’s neighbor from New Rochelle, NJ.  He and his family had driven into Chicago for his brother-in-law’s son’s Bris.  His wife is from Teaneck, NJ ground zero for Modern Orthodoxy.  His older Bocher in Yeshiva was Rabbi Sholem Baum, Rabbi at Keter Torah in Tenack, NJ,  http://www.ketertorah.org.   I had the privilege of sitting next to Rabbi Baum at my cousin’s wedding in Philadelphia.

 He has a cousin in Boca Raton Synagogue (It seems that everyone at Boca Raton Synagogue has a relative in Teaneck, NJ) who is a doctor.  This doctor has a brother-in-law from Chicago and this brother-in-law’s father was my classmate at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School in the 1960’s and is still a friend.  I bounce my Chiddushi Torah off this friend for comments.  He has a very Litvish approach to Pshat in Chumash, taking the plain meaning of the Torah, and if you deviate from the plain meaning you better justify your reasoning.

Shabbos – Parshas Ki Tz’zeh

Woke up late and did not feel well. Decided that I needed the round trip 11 mile walk to Anshe Sholom. Left a little late, 8:30 AM. Walking on Broadway, near the Shul, I saw a family with 5 kids walking to Shul. I knew that they could not be from the neighborhood, as it is rare for a large family to belong to Anshe Sholem and the boy was wearing his Tzizis out. By the time a family has a few kids, they move north to West Rogers Park or Skokie.

Of course I spoke to them and they were visiting Chicago from Teaneck, New Jersey, ground zero for Modern Orthodox Jews. It seems that everyone at Boca Raton Synagogue has a relative in Teaneck. The family belongs to Rabbi Sholem Baum’s Shul, Kether Torah (refer to my July post) and live a block from my cousins in Teaneck.  They said, my cousins are the ones  that have a son (Rabbi in Omaha, Neberska, featured on my Blog) who sold  his Chometz to Warren Buffett. http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/03/29/warren-buffetts-latest-bargain-purchase/

They said they saw Rabbi Perry Tirschwell a few weeks ago. Rabbi Tirschwell is moving to Teaneck. I know Rabbi Perry Tirschwell from Boca Raton and wish him well in his new position as National Director, National Council of Young Israel.

Walked into Anshe Sholem at 10:20 AM and the services were at the fifth Aliyah. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld introduces each Aliyah with a 2 minute Torah thought.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld spoke on these Verses:

אֶלבֵּיתוֹ, לַעֲבֹט עֲבֹטוֹ.

10 When thou dost lend thy neighbour any manner of loan, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.

יא  בַּחוּץ, תַּעֲמֹד; וְהָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה נֹשֶׁה בוֹ, יוֹצִיא אֵלֶיךָ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט, הַחוּצָה.

11 Thou shalt stand without, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring forth the pledge without unto thee.

יב  וְאִםאִישׁ עָנִי, הוּאלֹא תִשְׁכַּב, בַּעֲבֹטוֹ.

12 And if he be a poor man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge;

יג  הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיב לוֹ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וְשָׁכַב בְּשַׂלְמָתוֹ וּבֵרְכֶךָּ; וּלְךָ תִּהְיֶה צְדָקָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.  {ס}

13 thou shalt surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless thee; and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God. {S}

Rabbi Wolkenfeld* said that the Torah is telling us that we have to treat people in poverty with respect. We cannot use laws to criminalize poverty. We cannot use the law to hurt and destroy poor people. Rabbi Wolkenfeld gave an example of a poor person with a car that has a broken tail light. He cannot fix it because he has no money. A cop gives him a ticket for not having a tail light. The poor person misses the court date because he cannot take time off from work or does not have money to pay the ticket. There is now a warrant for his arrest. The law has criminalized poverty. This is a terrible injustice. The Torah is telling us that we cannot have laws that criminalize poverty.

WOW!

Years ago my brother missed a court date for a ticket and later that day the police showed up at my brother’s job to arrest him. My brother was dealing with life’s issues and forgot the court date. Luckily my brother was able to take care of the ticket. Imagine if he hadn’t. He may have ended up in jail and possibly his life ruined. Recently, my friend told me his tragic story. Years ago he received a ticket for a nonsensical issue, was not able to go to court, and this led to series of events that led to years of problems, all because the law criminalized innocent behavior.

I walked over the Rabbi Wolkenfeld and told him that my 11 mile round trip walk, just to spend 5 minutes in Shul and hear the above Torah though was all worth it. I felt that I could leave the Shul after just five minutes, even though I did not daven, because I heard a beautiful, profound Torah lesson. I stayed and Rabbi Wolkenfeld ‘s speech was magnificent. It was about Jewish identity and with that we become caring people, not only to our family but to all Jews, and to the world.

Left Anshe Sholem at 11:12 AM and made it home at 12:50 PM.

* Rabbi David Wolkenfeld added the following important comments:

Shalom,
Thank you for joining us at ASBI this Shabbat and for this kind and thoughtful reaction to what I said. I hope you’ll make the trek to Lakeview frequently!

One quick-point to emphasize. I believe that the Torah isn’t just telling us to “respect” the poor, but is calling on us to accept some amount of increased risk in our dealings with the poor (letting them have their collateral at night) because applying the law in an objective way, would have a disproportionate impact on the poor [c.f. Anatole France: In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges] and could lead to criminalizing poverty as I described. For more on “criminalizing poverty” see, the last section of this powerful essay by Barbara Ehrenreich: http://www.salon.com/2011/08/09/america_crime_poverty/

kol tuv,
DW

 

 

Shabbos Nachumu

This Shabbos is the greatest Shabbos of the year, Shabbos Nachumu.  I remember as a kid looking at the Jewish Press and reading the ads for Shabbos Nachumu weekend in the Catskills and wanted to go.


I recommend  Rabbi Shamshom Refoel Hirsh’s book on Haftorah.  His thoughts ring true to today.  His optimism, saying the Jews have to be the light to the nations, and his Zionism stand out.


Welcome to Rabbi Wolkenfeld,  the new Rabbi at Anshei Sholem.  I spoke to him and played Jewish geography.  Anshe Sholem made an excellent choice.


I was in Florida for 10 days around July 4th for the birth and Bris of my new grandson, Zachariah Refoel.  I will write about it at a different time.


The following is an old e-mail to family with a Torah though on this week’s portion and an Anshei Sholem story.

From: Mitch Morgenstern
Sent: Sunday, August 02, 2009 10:23 AM 

Saturday night, August 1, 2009 11:30 PM to 2:55 AM, Sunday Morning, August 2, 2009

Shabbos – Parshas Veschannan – August 1, 2009 – the 11th day of AV:

This Shabbos I had one of those great days, when everything came together for me.  Most of our lives are a series of living our daily lives, dealing with stress, hardships, punctuated by those times that are special.  We always have to deal with Monday morning.

My daughter is engaged to be married and the Vort – Engagement party is this Sunday night at my house from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.   Friday night we ate at my house with Chasan (groom), my sister, Karen and her daughter, Ziporah.  They came in from New York for the Vort.  My mother was also with us.

Shabbos morning I decided to walk to Anshe Sholem, the Shul along the lakefront.  Walking and running is one activity that gets me through life.  I left at 6:40 AM and got to Anshe Sholem at 8:25 AM.  I took the lakefront path.  There were hundreds of runners out there.  I love the energy.  Many of the guys were running without shirts.  Back in 1977 that was me.


Thought on the Torah Portion:

I was early so I sat down to learn.  I learned the first Passuk (passage) and the first Rashi.

image002

The first Rashi explains the word “Veschannan”.  Rashi says that this word means that Moshe prayed and asked for a “gift” from God.   Although righteous people can pray and ask for things from God because of their merits, they ask God for “gifts”.   Rashi then says,   image006 , “another explanation”.  Rashi’s second explanation is  that the  word “Veschannan” is one of the 10 expressions for prayer.   Rashi seems to be saying that there are two different interpretations of the word “Veschannan”.

The question on Rashi is obvious.  It would seem that there is only one Peshat –  There are 10 expressions of prayer, one of them being “Techina”.  Techina is a type of prayer that asks for a gift from God.  This is how The Rosh and the Da’as Zekanin M’Baali Tosfos explain it, refer to  page three of the attachment.   Rashi seems to say that there are two explanations, one a gift and the second prayer.

On Sunday morning after I wrote the above, I looked at the Sifrei, page 3A of the attached, and the Medresh Rabbah.  The Medresh Rabbah put the two thoughts together like the Rosh and the Ba’ali Tosfos.  The Sifrei is like Rashi.   However, Rashi does not use the language of the Sifrei.  His language is closer to that of the Medresh Rabbah.  I am sure Rashi did this for clarity, as the Medresh Rabbah elaborates on the translation of the word “Veschannnan”.

The Sefrei has the abbreviation by the second Peshat of the Daled and Alef, not spelled out   Thanks Yonatan for the gift of the Medresh Rabbah

Onkalys translates “Veschannan” as “and he prayed”.   Yonasan Ben Uziel says “and he asked for mercy”.  The Yerushalmi combines Onkalys and Yonasan Ben Uziel together and says, “ and he prayed and asked for mercy”, refer to pages 1 and 2 of the attached.

Maybe you could say that that at one time that Hebrew words ,was abbreviated with a Daled and an Alef.   Over the years as it was printed, the publisher thought the Daled and Alef was ,  Maybe Rashi’s original intent was that the word was D’amrinun or D’amer, as to explain it like The Rosh and the Da’as Zekanin M’Baali Tosfos.  We would have to see an original manuscript of Rashi.

The Ba’al Haturim, page four of the attached, says that the numerical equivalent of Veschannan is the same as Shira – song.  Moshe recited songs {of praise} before God, so that God would accept Moshe’s prayer.  Look at footnote 3 on page four.  I asked my neighbor Rabbi Moshe Roberts as to what is “Shirah”.  He explained Shirah as the first three blessings the Daily Amidah or as in Pesukai D’Zimra.  Maybe you could explain it differently.  The Ba’al Haturim is saying that when Moshe davened, he sang.   Moshe davened with great fervor infused with Simcha – Joy.  In Kotzk and Chassidus, davening is about fervor and Simcha.   As if Moshe davened with a Carlbach melody.  The Artscroll footnote says “for prayer requires a sweet-sounding melody”.

I am not sure how to really answer Rashi.  Maybe in the first explanation of Rashi, the highest level of all Prayer is asking from God requests as a free gift.  In the second Peshat, all prayers are at a high level, no matter how you Pray and what you ask for.  The reality is that most of us pray to God and tell God, we have been good, we have listened to you, and we have requests; please answer our prayer.  During different times we request things different ways, one of them being as a free gift, but not that this is on a higher level than other types of prayer.  Prayer depends on our moods, what is happening in our lives, our issues with self-esteem,  are things coming together for us.

 

Continuation of the Day:

I davened Shacharis.  During the prayer services in walks my friend, Alfie Cherrick.  His daughter is not well and has been in intensive care at Children’s Memorial Hospital.  Children’s Memorial Hospital is about one mile from the Shul.  My friend and his wife stayed at the hospital for Shabbos.  He davened at sunrise and came to Anshe Sholem to hear the Torah Reading.  My friend was sitting in the Shul’s study and  I was telling him the above Divrei Torah.  The Rabbi of Anshe Sholem, Rabbi Asher Lopatin walked in to get something from his office.   All three of us learned in Brisk Yeshiva by Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik and  Rabbi Lopatin commented, it is like old times.   I finished the Devar Torah, left the Shul at 9:50 AM to go to Mishna Ugemorah, my normal Synagogue.

We had a great moment of life.  And the Rest of the Story:

My friend reminded me of an event that occurred in 1975 and added a great ending to the event.

In 1975 both of us were learning in Brisk Yeshiva under Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik.  The Rabbi of Anshe Sholem, Rabbi Herman Davis, passed away at a younger age.  It was on the 23rd day of Sivan.  Rabbi Soloveichik had the entire Yeshiva;  high school and Beis Medresh go to the funeral.  I remember going and listening to the Hespeidim.  At the time, I did not understand why the entire Yeshiva went.  I knew that Rabbi Davis was a Rov, however, I did not think that he had any connection to the Yeshiva.  Alfie Cherrick remembered that Mayor Daley spoke, as Rabbi Davis was a city chaplain.  Alfie then told me the rest of the Story.  As myself, everyone wondered as to why the yeshiva went.  Some of the students asked Reb Aaron.  Reb Aaron said that during the `60’s, Rabbi Davis was under tremendous pressure to remove the Mechitza and have mixed seating.  Rabbi Davis fought to keep the Synagogue within Orthodoxy and was successful.  Reb Aaron said that the Yeshiva went in recognition of the struggle of Rabbi Davis to keep Anshe Sholem Orthodox and open to all Jews.  I was speechless.   Wow!   The greatness of Reb Aaron Soloveichik.  Reb Aaron was in the forefront of fighting for Orthodoxy and he understood Rabbi Davis’s struggles, and the importance of his successful fight.  34 years later, three of his students came together on a Shabbos morning due to Rabbi Davis.  I said a Torah thought, my friend had a place to Daven, and Rabbi Lopatin has done a magnificent job in growing Anshe Sholem.  This defines the concept of a Synagogue.   It is Jews coming together to pray as a community.  Sometimes it is just going about our daily routine, however, other times it is in a time of need, and in other times, it is times of joy.  Alfie Cherrick needed a successful recovery for his daughter, for me it was a time of joy, as my daughter is engaged, plus I love the Shul and go for my mental health, and Rabbi Lopatin is the Rabbi.

I can only conclude, thank you Hashem for allowing me to be there and participate.   May we all obtain peace of mind, Yshu’os and Refu’os – healing, for our physical, spiritual, and well-being,  from God

 

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