Friday, July 22, 2016




The Avodas Yissachar asks what is hinted at by the mesora that traditionally the letter vav in the word shalom (25:12) is to be split in half. The word shalom is of course read as usual; there is no discernible difference in the traditional way we read shalom – the keri remains the same as always. Yet the kesiv, the written word shalom here, is traditionally different, as the vav is split. What does this teach us?

The split symbolizes the internal conflict we all face when serving Hashem. We all know the truth: we have sinned at times, sometimes we fail and falter, and many times we have not served Hashem properly, transgressing against Him and His laws of our holy Torah. So we feel broken, ashamed, and lowly. We know that humility leads to true yiras shamayim (fear of Hashem). However, teaches the Avodas Yissachar, we would do well at lowly times such as these to remember the teaching of the Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk on the maamar Chazal, Pesachim 64, that ein maavirin al hamitzvos, which means literally that we don't pass over mitzvos. But the Tiferes Shlomo understands this to mean that when a mitzva comes to hand not only should you not let the opportunity pass you by; you should also not remember your aveiros. Rather, push those thoughts aside; focus not on past mistakes but on future accomplishments and achievements! This is what the broken vav symbolizes; it is our brokenheartedness due to past misdeeds.

The Avodas Yissachar also cites the holy Kozhnitzer Maggid that teaches us that the pasuk in Bamidbar 19:2 – asher ein bo mum asher lo ala aleha ol – "that has no blemish and has born no burden," can be read to mean that whoever does not recognize that he has blemishes and has made mistakes, cannot become elevated and his tefillos and mitzvos do not ascend to Hashem.

We need a balance. This is the balance of the keri and kesiv of shalom. On the inside, the kesiv, we are broken like the vav; on the outside we never give up, continuing to serve Hashem with joy. This is true shalom and shleimus!

The Nesivos Shalom says that one of the explanations of the sin of Klal Yisrael at this time was that they all stood mourning and crying outside the tent. He cites the Sabba Kadisha of Slonim who explains that this grave sin of the klal was yeush – hopelessness and despair! They had given up; they thought their sins were so bad, that they had sunk so low, that there was no way back, heaven forbid. This is when the yetzer hara is strongest: when a Yid chas veshalom falls into despair and says, "I give up – there is no hope!" Then he falls even lower to worse sins!

The Sabba Kadisha of Slonim taught the meaning of the pasuk: mussar Hashem beni al timas, which literally means "My son, do not hate or disparage the mussar of your father." The Sabba Kaddisha read this as: "The best mussar lesson from Hashem is – you are my son; I shall never disparage or hate you!" Even after the worst of sins, says Hashem, you will always be My child.

With such a message of hope we will overcome the evil yetzer and rise up to serve Hashem with joy, Amen.



There was once a soldier in the king's army who had a secret weapon. The king had granted him a precious weapon of such power and might that he alone was entrusted to safeguard and wield it in battle. What did the soldier do? He went to war; but once he had crossed over into enemy territory all his best-laid plans were foiled.

There he was ambushed by the enemy. The enemy was cunning, crafty and…beautiful and enticing. The enemy had sent a female soldier to lure and capture the king's soldier. The soldier was ensnared and betrayed the king. He handed over his secret weapon – the king's prized treasure, into the hands of the enemy! Although he was captured and held as a prisoner of war, he was eventually redeemed and brought back from captivity. Yet his judgment was not only to be court-martialed, he was sentenced to death for his betrayal, for handing over the king's secrets to the enemy!

The Slonimer Rebbe, in Nesivos Shalom, asks why Klal Yisrael were collectively blamed and punished for the actions of an individual (Zimri). He answers that their collective sin was the failure of hakaras chet – the failure to recognize the calamity and gravity of the sin in their midst. Which grave sin was this? Licentious behavior by a leader of the generation with a non-Jewish woman. What is so grave about this sin as opposed to others? Why does this crime outweigh others in its weight so that it brings about collective punishment as harsh as a plague that killed so many? The Nesivos Shalom explains that relations with a gentile woman are tantamount to taking the king's secret weapon, the sparks of holiness, and handing them over to the enemy. The penalty is death for such a grave crime, a betrayal of the King Himself.

Thursday, July 21, 2016



LeOzni Mishpachas Ho'Ozni – To Ozni, the Oznite family (26:16).

Rashi – this is Etzbon (mentioned in Bereishis 46:16).

The Shela HaKodosh learns a moshol from these words. He asks why Rashi equates Ozni with Etzbon. What's the connection? He teaches us a mussar lesson based on a play on words. Chazal teach (Kesubos 5b) that man's fingers were created shaped so that they fit perfectly in our ears. Why? So that he can place them in his ears and prevent himself from hearing anything negative. Rashi therefore compares Ozni to Etzbon: Ozen means "ear" and Etzba "finger". Thus, the pasuk, based on Rashi, is seen as a moshol telling us to team up the Ozen with the Etzba: if you wish to prevent yourself from hearing something ossur, stick your fingers in your ears!


LeYetzer Mishpachas HaYitzri, LeShillem Mishpachas HaShillemi – To Yetzer, the Yitzrite family, to Shillem, the Shillemite family (26:49).

The Chofetz Chaim used to say that this pasuk teaches us mussar by way of a moshol. Yetzer refers to the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination to sin, and Shillem refers to the acquisition of shleimus, perfection, righteousness and good. The pasuk warns us that LeYetzer – whoever chooses to listen to his Yetzer HoraMishpachas HaYitzri –will have no problem finding a large family to take him in, a family of sinners, and others who chase after their passions and desires to do evil. The opposite, however, is also true: LeShillem – whoever decides to pursue the path of righteousness and straightforwardness and become whole and pure – Mishpachas HaShillemi – he is welcomed to the family of Tzaddikim, righteous people who all share the same desire to grow in Avodas Hashem. As Chazal tell us: BeDerech She'Odom Rotzeh Leylech Molichin Oso – a person is led upon whichever path he chooses.




Rav Elimelech Biderman tells a story:

"Rebbe, I am worthless," complained a dejected, despondent bachur before the Steipler Gaon, "I have no connection left to Torah or Avodas Hashem. The evil one has ensnared me in his net and I cannot fight anymore." The poor talmid sat there deflated and and explained why he felt this way: "I am constantly fighting my yetzer hora and I am defeated again and again; I never win!" "Never?" wondered the Steipler. "Do you honestly never succeed? Can you truly say you never win at all?" "Well, maybe just sometimes – once in a while," admitted the bachur. "Well," concluded the Steipler, "if so, your way is clear; don't look back at your failures at all – instead focus only on your victories. This will console you, and this is how you will slowly rise back up." The Steipler bolstered his words by pointing out how many seforim illustrate the process of teshuva by prescribing various methods to atone for past misdeeds. "However, the greatest tikkun one can effect," asserted the Steipler, "is to say to yourself, 'AD KAN – stop! Till here did I stumble – but no further. From this point on, I will get up and strengthen myself.' This is the greatest tikkun you can do!"



The Arizal teaches us that in the scheme of the head, the months of Tammuz and Av correspond to the eyes. This is the secret of the pasuk in Eicha (1:16), Eini Eini Yorda Mayim – "My eye runs constantly with water", referring to the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. It is no coincidence that in the summer months of Tammuz and Av we have a special obligation to safeguard and sanctify our eyes more than at any other time of year.

A bachur once came to the Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisrael, and complained that he had visited a Mekubal who had told him terrible things. "The Mekubal told me," he said, "that I have a lot of Ayin Horas that I must rid myself of!" The Rebbe calmed him and answered him thus: "Let me explain to you the Gemara's statement (Bava Metzia 107b), that 'ninety-nine out of a hundred die because of Ayin Hora (the evil eye) and one of natural causes'. What Chazal meant by Ayin Hora is that they died because they did not sufficiently protect and safeguard their eyes!" Concluded the Rebbe.

The Zlotshuver Maggid once observed that no other organ in the human body is as delicate as the eye. Take one single grain of sand and place it on any organ, nothing negative will happen. However, place just one single grain of sand in the eye…! The reason for the exalted position of the eyes is because the Shechina Herself rests on our eyes and, because they are a vehicle or dwelling place for Her, just one grain of sand or dirt can injure them!

The Biala Rebbe, author of Chelkas Yehoshua, had very poor eyesight in his later years. Eventually, during the last six years of his life, his right eye ceased to function, and his left eye saw only very dimly. His grandson related how, one Shabbos morning, the Rebbe awoke before dawn, as was his custom, and asked for a Siddur so as to recite the morning blessings of Birkas HaTorah and Keriyas Shema. When his grandson said it was still too dark to see, he went into the next room with his grandfather's Siddur, and, by the last light of the guttering candles, turned pages till he reached the Berachos in the Siddur. He asked the Rebbe if he would like to sit by the candles, yet the Rebbe demurred, saying it was unnecessary. After saying the Berachos, the Rebbe turned a few pages, recited the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith and began reciting Shema – all from the Siddur, as his minhag was to daven only from a Siddur. His grandson, however, couldn't help but notice that as he gazed at the Siddur, it was so dark that he couldn't make out a single word. He wondered if his holy grandfather was simply gazing at the Siddur, because it was his minhag to daven only from a Siddur, yet not actually reading anything, being that his eyesight was so poor. Afterward, he took the Siddur and checked by the remaining candlelight and – lo and behold – the Siddur was turned to the correct page for Shema. He approached the Chelkas Yehoshua and asked him, "Zeida, how can you see? I am younger than you and my eyesight is better, yet I cannot read in this darkness! How do you do it?!" The Rebbe took his einikel's hands in his holy ones and said to him, "When you guard your eyes all your life, all the Devorim She'bikedusha shine!" (Kedushas Einayim Chap. 15, #126)

The Modzitzer Rebbe writes in Divrei Yisrael (Klalei Oraisa #Hay): The pasuk says in Sefer Shmuel Aleph (16:7): HaAdam Yireh La'Einayim Va'Hashem Yireh LaLevov ("Man sees with the eyes but Hashem sees into the heart"). The word Levov is an acronym whose Roshei Teivos (initial letters) spell: Lechem, Beged and Bayis (Bread, Clothing and Home). These items symbolize all the needs of a person. If a person takes care guarding his eyes, Hashem will take care of providing for all his physical needs, seeing to it that he lacks nothing, has bread to eat, clothing to wear and a place to live.

The Ra'avad writes in Ba'alei HaNefesh (Sha'ar HaKedusha) that the first protective fence that a person must erect around himself is to safeguard the eyes. Whoever protects his eyes protects his heart as well.

The Yerushalmi (Berachos 1:5) promises us that HaKodosh Boruch Hu declares: "If you give Me your heart and your eyes, I know that you are Mine!"


In honor of the Ohr haChaim HaKadosh's Yohrzeit we are re-issuing last year's parsha vort: ZYA


"The name of the Ish Yisrael who was slain, who was slain with the Midianite woman" (25:14).

The Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh is bothered by the seemingly repetitive mention of the word "slain" or "struck (down)" in our pasuk, as opposed to the single occurrence of the word in the following pasuk referring to the Midianite princess, Kozbi. He tells us, therefore, that this pasuk can be read in one of two ways: either as "The name [and soul] of the Ish Yisrael was struck down [because] he was struck by the Midianite woman [spiritually]", or as "The name of the Ish Yisrael who was struck down [physically by Pinchas], he was struck by the Midianite woman [spiritually, through his relationship with her]".

The Ohr HaChaim points out that Zimri was struck twice: physically, his body was struck down and slain by Pinchas who, in a zealous act of righteousness, killed him; and his soul was also struck down by his relationship with Kozbi, the Midianite princess, which defiled his name and his inner essence, the Jewish soul. The Ohr HaChaim says that this is why the pasuk points out the name of the Ish Yisrael – because we know that a person's name influences and expresses his soul's nature (Berachos 7b, Yoma 83b). When Zimri sinned with Kozbi, he fatally wounded his own name, together with his Jewish soul, dealing himself a lethal blow even before Pinchas slew him.

Nonetheless, the Ohr HaChaim concludes in the name of the Mekubolim that "Lo Yidach Mimenu Nidach" – no one is ever left behind; there is hope and a tikkun (rectification) for every Jew, no matter what. All the sparks of kedusha will eventually be ingathered and uplifted. No matter how far a Jew might stray and – Heaven forbid – blemish or defile his soul, Hashem guarantees that it will be rectified and will return to its root source in the end.

Therefore, says the Ohr HaChaim, the pasuk still calls Zimri an Ish Yisrael – an Israelite, a Jew. The pasuk testifies that although his act was sinful, and, since he was killed in the midst of sin he surely did not have time to do teshuva, nonetheless he is still called Yisrael – he still achieved his tikkun. How? Pinchas did that for him. Pinchas' act was not a random act of vigilante justice or murder; it was a zealous act of righteousness LiSh'ma – for the honor and glory of Hashem, with pure motivations. Thus, by killing Zimri, Pinchas did him the ultimate favor and was mesaken him, thereby atoning for his sin and elevating his soul.

Friday, June 10, 2016





"And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying "Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21)

In his sefer Divrei Yechezkel, Rav Chatzkeleh Shinover conveys the following vort from Rav Tzvi ha'Kohen of Rymanow (also known as Reb Hirschele MeShares). The name or term "Moshe" can be interpreted as referring to a Tzaddik, because often the Gemara refers to a Talmudic sage speaking truth as "Moshe". For instance, "Moshe Shapir KeAmris," Moshe you have spoken truthfully." (Shabbos 101b). The name or term "Gershon" can be interpreted as referring to those who are "gerushin" or "megerushim", that is "sent or chased away".

Thus, we can interpret this pasuk as Hashem telling the Tzaddikim in each generation to uplift and raise the heads of those who feel distant from sanctity and holiness. The Shinover confided that when he heard Reb Hirshele MeShares' words, they uplifted him, enlightening his soul, making it shine and raising him high.


"Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23)

"Emor Lahem kemo Zachor veShamor – say to them just like "remember and safeguard [Shabbos]". (Rashi ad hoc)

It was Erev Shabbos. Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanow was in a quandary. He had no fish for Shabbos Kodesh! What should he do? As the afternoon waned and Shabbos drew near, he turned to his faithful servant, Reb Hirschele MeShares, and asked him to prepare the cooking utensils they used to cook fish in honor of Shabbos. Reb Hirschel gathered wood, lit and stoked the fire in the stove and boiled water in the fish pot. Rav Mendel also asked Reb Hirschel to chop and cook up the carrots and the onions. With each act and task Reb Hirschel was instructed to say "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh - " in honor of the holy Shabbos. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A guest had arrived to celebrate Shabbos with his Rebbe. Amazingly, the guest had brought Rav Mendel a gift in honor of Shabbos… Fish!

Later on during the Shabbas tisch, Rav Mendel explained to his followers and Chassidim,: "The sanctity of Shabbos comes down and draws down with it all forms of shefa (abundance) and blessings from on High. Whoever wishes to accept and receive the shefa must prepare himself by transforming his will and desire into speech by saying "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh!" Then the shefa will come down to him. Chazal( our sages) alluded to this when they said: "Zachor and Shamor (remember and safeguard Shabbos) were said together as one – Be'Dibur Echad," (Rosh HaShanna 27a) because all blessing hinges upon and depends upon speech! I based my bitachon (faith) that I would have fish for Shabbos on the fact that Reb Hirschel had prepared everything for Shabbas by saying the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh."

As Rav Menachem Mendel's replacement Rebbe in Rymanow, Reb Hirschel MeShares used to relate this story and to illustrate the meaning behind Rashi's commentary to the pasuk "Ko Sevarchu…Emor Lahem" concerning the Birkas Kohanim – the priestly blessings. Rashi is troubled as to why the verse includes the additional words v'emor lahem – so shall you bless them, say to them? Wouldn't it have sufficed to say "So shall you bless them." Rashi then explains that these extra words "say to them" demonstrate the power of words. Just as with the enactments of Shabbos, the Torah included the words "Zachor and Shamor" both written in words and spoken due to the secret power of the spoken word to bring forth shefa and blessings, similarly this power of words is reflected in Birkas Kohanim as well. Just as the abundance and blessings of Shabbos can be harnessed via the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh", Hashem wanted the Kohenim to say the words aloud in order to harness the blessing and abundance that flows from the words themselves.



A terrible thing had happened! The crown prince had been kidnapped and captured by a band of criminals! Bound and fettered, the prince languished in a cell, a prisoner with no hope of escape. The criminals sent ransom notes to the king asking him to pay them hefty sums to free their captive.

The king had a faithful servant who was a skilled warrior. In order to save the prince, he knew he would have to descend to the deepest rankest, the foulest pits and dens below the earth. The criminals lurked in hiding amidst the scum and filth, sewers and cesspools, in darkness.

The servant approached the guarded den of thieves and criminals.

He steeled and girded himself with courage. He reminded himself of the great service he was doing to his beloved king, and how grateful and happy the king and prince would be when they were reunited. For the sake of the king, the servant slunk down into the depths and descended into the underworld, braving its dangers. Finally, he reached the cell where the prince sat, forlorn and despondent. The prince dreamed of the day when he would once again bask in the light and splendor of the king's royal visage. He longed to be reunited with his beloved father, the king. Waiting for the opportune time, the skilled warrior attacked the guards. Executing a few skilled strokes, the servant defeated the criminals and rescued the prince!

In Mevaser Tzedek Rav Yissacher, Ber of Zlotshuv uses this parable to illustrate the pasuk: "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21) He teaches that there are Tzaddikim who use their prowess and skills to rescue and uplift Bnei Gershon - the cast away and captives –that is, those that have been sent away and chased away into dungeons – and reunite them with Hashem, their Father the King. These Tzaddikim draw these princes close and reunite them with their loving families to Beis Avosam - their loving Father.


There was once a wealthy man whose only son resisted all attempts at refinement and education. His tutors and teachers could not help, all was to no avail. He simply refused to act and live a just and true life. The wealthy man disowned his son and refused to have anything more to do with him. He neglected him and did not buy him any new clothes or shoes. Eventually, the boy's appearance matched his deeds, he looked as well as acted like a homeless tramp! His once beautiful and refined garments eventually grow soiled, tattered and torn with use and lack of repair. His jackets needed mending, his knees were torn, his shoes were unpolished and full of holes and he looked like an unkempt street urchin.

One day, a former acquaintance of the boy's father saw the son in the street. Appalled by the boy's appearance, he asked , "Why do you, the son of such a wealthy man, go in such a manner, dressed in rags and tatters?!" The silly boy responded that he did not have a penny to his name to mend his clothes or buy new ones. "My father won't have any new clothes made for me!" he finished in a sulk. The man laughed. "You foolish child! I didn't ask you why you don't have new clothes made for you, I am asking why don't you behave yourself and act the way someone of your status and station ought to behave? If you lived a just and righteous life, your father would be proud of you and would care after you, including buying you shiny shoes and a new suit of clothes fitting for the son of a wealthy nobleman! You would not need to wander the streets like some lowlife ragtag. You would make him happy and would enjoy the pleasure of being taken care of and of giving him the nachas he deserves. you would have satisfaction of knowing you deserved this goodness and kindness. He only wants to bestow all his goodness, riches and wealth on you, his precious beloved son?!"

Inn Siach Sarfei Kodesh, the Kozhnitzer Maggid explains that this is the way we, the Jewish people, act. We are Hashem's beloved precious children, the apple of His eye. Hashem wishes to bestow upon us a wealth of blessings and abundance of shefa from His supernal storehouses of Beracha and Hatzlacha. However, we often act in such a way that prevents us from receiving all that goodness. The yetzer hara causes us to deviate from the path of righteousness which breaks the vessel we need to accept His blessings. In this pasuk, "Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23), Hashem is telling Moshe to tell Aharon that He wishes to bless Bnei Yisroel and they will be the vehicle to carry that out. However, there is a condition embedded in the words "emor lahem" – that is, they must tread on the righteous path of justice and truth and walk in the ways of Hashem with Torah and Avodah. They will only be worthy of receiving the berachos, that is of having a vessel with which to receive the bounty of shefa if their behavior (their sins) break their vessels and thus prevent them from doing so.



Rav Elimelech Biderman taught the following from Rav Aharon of Karlin, author of Beis Aharon.

Once when the Karliner was sitting at his tisch, he sent one of the Chassidim outside to see what was going on in the street and report back what he had seen. The Chassid reported that he had seen two drunks swaying back and forth to and fro across the pavement. They were so drunk they could not walk in a straight line. One drunk said to the other: "Here, let's hold each other and this way we won't fall down!" The holy Tzaddik, the Karliner taught a lesson from these drunks to his Chassidim, "Do you hear?! Did you hear what he said! If we each hold onto each other, then we will not fall!"

The Beis Aharon explained the statement of our Sages (Sukkah 52b) "Whoever is greater than his fellow, his evil inclination is greater than him." . If a person feels that he is "greater than", then that is from "his fellow", this greatness is achieved through his friendship and love and attachment to his fellow Jews. However if his evil inclination is "greater than", then that is from him, then he remains alone because he is by himself lacking the companionship and camaraderie of others to uplift him.


Rav Eliyahu Roth, the faithful gabbai of Rav Shlomka of Zhvill, told the following story in which he himself featured. It was Shavuos night, when Klal Yisroel stays up all night. As dawn approached, the tzadik Rav Shlomka of Zhvill turned to his trusted gabbai and said, "You should know that every year as the dawn of Shavuos approaches, Hashem Himself asks each and every Yiddishe Neshama, "Who is willing to accept the Torah?" and all the Yiddishe Neshamos answer, Naase VeNishma! – "We will do and we will hear!" Turning to Rav Eliyahu Roth, Rav Shlomka said, "Now let us together declare Naase VeNishma."

Rav Meizlish in his sefer Sichos BeAvodas Hashem cites the above story and asks, what is the purpose of declaring "Naase VeNishma" every year specifically before dawn? Would it not be more fitting for us to proclaim "Naase VeNishma" during the day when we hear these same words in Keriyas HaTorah of Shavuos? Furthermore, what is actually achieved when our souls are asked to accept Torah and they reply "Naase VeNishma "? After all, the soul has no free will, and we are not even aware that this dialogue transpires.

Rav Meizlish answers that when studying all night long, you often feel frustration as your head swims, you need another coffee, you push yourself, psyche yourself up. You try harder to keep going, another line, another blatt, another Rashi and Tosfos, another pasuk. The darkness of the night reflects the darkness of our minds, toiling and suffering to break through the obscurity and a lack of clarity.

This is precisely the type of Mesirus Nefesh in learning that Shavuos demands of us. The proclamation of Naase VeNishma is a form of oath. The Beis Avraham says that the name of the Yom Tov of Shavuos can be interpreted as a shavua (an oath) such as the pledge of allegiance that a soldier takes when he is sworn in to serve in the armed forces and fight against the enemy.

We too are soldiers in Hashem's army and on Shavuos we pledge allegiance to Hashem, our Commander in Chief, as we are sworn in with a shavua that we will serve Hashem faithfully and fight against our enemy, the yetzer hara.

The Meor Aynaim of Chernobyl teaches in parshas Yisro that the primary virtue of Klal Yisroel's having declared Naase VeNishma is not that they accepted the pleasant and pleasurable aspects of Torah. This is taanug and neimus (pleasure and delight) in Torah study and observance. When Klal Yisroel said Naase VeNishma, they were accepting the Torah under all circumstances, even when it is an ol (a yoke and a burden), even when it is difficult and requires effort and exertion. Specifically during trying times, when Torah study is challenging, when one lacks the enthusiasm to learn and one needs to push oneself, Klal Yisroel's declaration of Naase VeNishma is relevant! Because, explains the Meor Aynaim, he who wishes to serve Hashem only when it is pleasant is not serving Hashem at all; he is worshipping himself! Such an avodah where you are focused on your own delight and pleasure is in fact a taavah like all the other taavos — a desire like any other desire! Rather, we must be faithful servants of Hashem who serve at all times and under all circumstances. This is the Naase VeNishma that Klal Yisroel accepted upon themselves at Matan Torah.

This is also why we read Megilas Rus, for Rus converted under trying circumstances demonstrating true Mesirus Nefesh, saying, "Where you die there I shall die" (Rus 1:17). Rus was ready to die for Hashem and follow Klal Yisroel even though it mean self-sacrifice and poverty.

This is our affirmation of Naase VeNishma on Shavuos night before the dawn after a long hard night of learning.


Rav Elimelech Biderman shares the following story of Hashgacha Pratis apropos Kabbalas HaTorah and Chag HaShavuos:


There was a Yid who made Torah study his primary occupation and his livelihood secondary. Although he was occupied with his business concerns for most hours of the day, nonetheless he punctiliously attended a Gemara shiur each evening. His daily attendance at the shiur was a firm commitment; nothing prevented him from attending the shiur. Nothing…until the day he received an invitation to his nephew's chasuna.

Now he was in a real quandary. On one hand, how could he miss the shiur? On the other hand, how could he miss the chasuna of his own nephew? Not knowing what to do he approached the Maggid Shiur and explained his dilemma. The Maggid Shiur listened patiently, smiled, and said, "No worries, I have a solution for you that will allow you to fulfill both your obligations. What if I told you that you could attend the shiur and still dance at the chasuna?" The Yid was at a loss — he couldn't imagine how he could accomplish both on the same evening. "I already taught this masechta last cycle and recorded all the shiurim," explained the Maggid Shiur with a smile, and with a flourish he presented the man with a recording of the shiur on the same daf that he would be teaching that evening.

Elated, our protagonist entered the car with his family, and as he drove to the chasuna, the shiur began playing. All was going well until the family found themselves behind a large, slow-moving vehicle. The truck's pace was that of a large snail, and gradually the frustration in the car grew until it reached a crescendo. "At this rate we will get to the chasuna after the last mitzvah tantz," cried the exasperated family. Finally the pressure was too much and the driver decided he had to do something about it. (Now let me make this clear, interrupted Rav Biderman, it is absolutely forbidden to do what this Yid did; it is illegal and sakanas nefashos (a deadly danger). We are commanded by the Torah to look after ourselves — "venishmartem me'od lenafshosaychem — and you shall watch yourselves very well." However, we cannot judge the pressure he was under.) Despite there being a straight and unbroken dividing line on the highway that forbids passing in the opposite lane, our driver checked for oncoming traffic and seeing none proceeded to enter the opposite lane in order to pass the truck in front of him.

As soon as he entered the opposite traffic lane, his heart jumped into his throat at the sound of a blaring police siren. "Oh no, here comes a ticket!" Instinctively he pulled back into his lane...just in the nick of time for it seems that although our driver had checked beforehand, a truck was speeding down the opposite lane. He was traveling so fast that although he had not been in our driver's field of vision before, had our driver entered the opposite lane and attempted to pass the truck in front, there was no doubt that he would have collided with the speeding vehicle head on! Amazed at the fact that Baruch Hashem their lives had been saved, our driver braced himself for the chastisement and ticket that the traffic cops would surely hand him after pulling him over. He was happy to pay, since they had clearly just saved his life. To his amazement, however, there was no siren, no police car in his rearview mirror, nor any other car behind him on the road at all! The police seemed to have somehow vanished into thin air. Well, he didn't need to actively seek a ticket and so he continued driving. At a further point the slow-moving truck in front of him pulled over a little onto the shoulder. This, combined with a now-dotted line, allowed our driver to legally and safely pass the truck and make it together with his family to his nephew's chasuna and fulfill the mitzvah of simchas chosson vekallah.

On the way home after the mitzvah tantz, the driver decided to make good use of his time and review the shiur. He turned on the tape and after a short while in the middle of his listening to the shiur his heart jumped as again he heard the loud blare of a police siren. It was then that he grasped that the siren was in fact recorded on the tape! The Aibishter had prepared the refua before the maka (the cure before the calamity). Hashem had arranged it so that a police car with shrieking sirens had passed by the shiur while this very daf was being taught, and it had all been recorded. Due to our driver's diligence and unfailing devotion to kevias itim leTorah, he had procured the tape that saved his and his family's life!


After Rav Shlomka of Zvhill got married, he continued eating all his meals in his father Rav Mordechai's home, relying on him for parnassa. Each day Rav Mordechai handed his daughter-in-law a set sum for their needs, until one day Rav Shlomka thought to himself, "Isn't a Jew supposed to believe that Hashem alone takes care of all his physical and financial needs? Isn't it therefore inappropriate for me to rely on my father's help and support? Surely Hashem will send me what is due to me no matter what!" So he told his wife to no longer accept the daily income from his father, Rav Mordechai.

Several days later, there was no food left in Rav Shlomka's home. He began to doubt his decision and reasoned, "Perhaps I was mistaken. Who am I to mix into Hashem's affairs as to how He runs the world? If Hashem chose my father as the emissary, surely I must not question this or decide that my parnassa should come from some other source." And so he asked his wife to go back and accept money from his father as she had previously. When she came into Rav Mordechai he saw her and remarked, "I see you weren't here for a few days, so I shall give you the sum of one full ruble which will total a week's worth of allowance."

That day two wealthy Chassidim came to visit Rav Mordechai and afterwards they decided to visit his son, Rav Shlomka, as well to congratulate him on his recent marriage. They wished Rav Shlomka mazal tov, and one of them took out a ruble from his pocket as they conversed. Rav Shlomka realized that this was to be his wedding gift. However as their conversation drew to a close, the chassid forgot what he had wanted to do with the money and simply slipped the coin back into his pocket. After some time Rav Shlomka's Rebbetzin returned from her father-in-law with a ruble in hand. Then Rav Shlomka put one ruble and one ruble together and understood that a ruble had been ready and waiting for him from Shomayim! The chassid was sent to hand it over to him, however as he was poised to do so, his Rebbetzin accepted the ruble from his father and so the chassid pocketed the ruble.

Rav Biderman said, "Although simple people like us are not on such a high level, we can learn from this an important lesson. Whatever we receive from others is ultimately from Hashem and these people are just his shluchim (emissaries). If someone stops giving us, it is not to them we need to turn to with tearful entreaties, rather it is to Hashem, for that person neither gave nor took, rather Hashem Himself is the Source of all!"

Monday, May 23, 2016


Why is Lag Ba'Omer called Rav Shimon's Hilula? What does Hilula mean? (Source:
Va'amartem Ko LeChai).
The holy Zohar (III 296b) calls the passing of Rashbi a Hilula and tells us:
During the levaya for Rashbi, his bier flew through the air and a pillar of fire
moved before it. This is how he entered the burial cave. Suddenly, all
present at the
funeral heard a heavenly voice proclaim, "Enter, come together, gather
for the Hilula of
Rav Shimon."
What does Hilula mean?
A few possibilities include:
Hallel – praise: we tell stories of praise about Rashbi, his good
deeds, miracles and
Simcha – the simcha of Chosson and Kalla is called by Chazal a
Hilula, alluding to the
yichud, the supernal unification that Rashbi performed above and below;
Ohr – light, as in the pasuk (Yeshaya 14:12): Heilel ben Shachar,
which Rashi explains
as "The planet Venus that shines like the morning star."
Yahrzeit – The Ramak says that every Tzaddik's day of petira or
yahrzeit is known as a
Hillula: "When the soul of the Tzaddik ascends on high on the day of
his passing, his
soul unites with the Holy One and the Shechina. On this day, all the Torah and
mitzvos that he studied and performed and engaged in during his lifetime all
awaken and shine forth their light and a great yichud (spiritual
unification) occurs
on high.
Rav Aharon of Karlin wrote in Beis Aharon that "Just as HaKadosh
Baruch Hu is for everyone, so too is Rashbi for everyone even for the
The Nesivos Shalom explains this to mean that a great tzadik is so
great that he not only loves the righteous Jews but he even finds
something beloved and precious even in the lowliest wicked Jew as
well. This is the level of Moshiach who will be able to love even the
most wicked as much as the greatest tzadik! He uses this to explain
the story of Rashbi in the Gemarra Shabbos when Rashbi exited the
cavern to where he had been exiled, he observed people working in the
fields and he exclaimed in wonder, "How can they leave behind the
eternal reward of Torah study for this world and its temporary
business?!" His eyes burned wherever he gazed and a heavenly voice
proclaimed, "I didn't let you out of the cave to destroy my world!"
They went back in for a year saying, 'The judgment of the wicked in
Gehinom is a 12 month sentence.'" Asks the Slonimer rebbe in Nesivos
Sholom, "why did the judge themselves as wicked and sentence
themselves to twelve months again in the cave?" He answers that their
lack of ability to love those people who were simple, lowly and worked
the fields in this temporal world as opposed to being occupied in
Torah study, that was their lack and this is why the judged themselves
wicked and re-entered the cave to atone for and rectify this failing.
When he emerged Rashbi was the epitome of the tzadik yesod olam – a
righteous foundation of the world and that is why his great awesome
light was revealed and shines on Lag BaOmer which falls out on the
sefirah of Hod she'be'Hod – the sefirah which is the lowest and most
deepest form of harsh din and judgment. For his light and love shines
down below to even the lowest and deepest depths to love every Jew,
even the wicked, and to find within even the lowest place light and
Regarding such a love and such an ability my Rebbe, the Clevelander
rebbe shlita once told me the following tale: There was once an
informant, whose terrible ways constantly plagued the Jews. The
tzadikim and Chassidim gathered to put an end to him once and for all
and to excommunicate him and sentence him to death for he was a rodef!
They approached the talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Zeev Wolf Kitzes
to complete their quorum, and join their minyan, however to their
astonishment he refused! He explained himself and said, "One day in
the future the righteous Moshiach will finally arrive! He will conquer
the lands and the hearts of many. All the nations shall rush to greet
him and subjugate themselves before his reign and his might, and all
the exiles shall return. As word of his dominion spreads Jews will
flock to him from far and wide all kinds of Jews all . . .except one!
There will be one black hearted, dark obstinate fellow who will remain
in the exile scoffing to the final day. Then the nations shall send
emissaries and dignitaries bearing gifts and offerings. Gold, Silver,
precious stones and treasures, yet Moshiach will scoff at them all.
Then the Jews will also wish to bestow upon him a gift, but seeing how
he despises ordinary wealth, they will search far and wide to bring
Moshiach the most precious gift, that of a Yiddishe Neshomo – a Jewish
soul ! They will search and scour the entire exile and find none,
everyone has come, everyone except for. . .one miserable soul. They
will locate him and bind and gag him and carry him kicking and
screaming, flailing all the way to Jerusalem! There they will bring
the king moshiach the most precious gift, a Jewish soul which is
unblemished and untarnished and he will remake and reforge him anew
into a Baal Teshuva. Be it known that it is revealed to me from on
high that that precious soul resides in your informant and moser, now
I ask you. Tell me the truth are you really willing to annihilate this
most precious soul, the gift of the Moshiach of whom it says "VaYovilu
Shay LaMoreh – they shall carry and bring a gift to the master?"
When the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezibuz would study the holy Zohar he
would begin with the Shaar Blatt – the title page and he would explain
it as follows:
Ze HaSefer HaZohar SheChiber HaTanna Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – lit.
this is the Sefer HaZohar authored by the Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. Rav Baruch explained this:
Ze HaSefer – Dos iz a sapir – this is a brilliant sapphire!, HaZohar –
vos er laycht in alle olomas – whose splendor illuminates all of the
worlds! Asher chiber – vos iz mechaber idishe hertzer tzum Tatten in
Hilim – which attaches and binds Jewish hearts to their Father in
Heaven! Tanna – er lernt iz az se'iz du a bashefer oif der vellt – he
teaches us that there is a Creator in the world! Mihu Zeh? He asked
himself rhetorically, who is this? and answered zehu – this is Rabbi
Shimon Bar Yochai may his merit shield us! (Otzar Yisroel 118)
The holy Rizhiner was plagued by an informant, a rodef and a moser,
who constantly chased after the tzadik. He used to mock him and jest,
why doesn't the holy rebbe just punish me and condemn me to die?! The
holy Rizhiner heard this and turned to his Chassidim and said, "When
Rashbi left the cave to which he was exiled and he saw the informant
Yehuda ben Gerim he said, Is he still around? He gazed upon him and
turned him into a heap of bones!" Isn't it a wonder that Rashbi was so
angry and upset at him that he would do that?! Rather Rashbi said when
he saw him, "Is this man still around?" he was asking himself a
question, perhaps he is still around because I have not yet succeeded
in rectifying all that I need to in myself. So the Talmud says he
gazed upon him – this means Rashbi gazed intently upon himself and
began to reckon through cheshbon henefesh regarding his own spiritual
standing, as he did this Yehuda ben Gerim was transformed into a pile
of bones [proving that Rashbi had now sufficiently rectified himself
and this wicked informant had no longer any reason to be here alive].
Thus, concluded the Rizhiner so long as this wicked informant is still
around it must mean that I have not rectified myself completely yet,
how will it help if I punish him and cause him to leave this world?
Another person will come to take his place, only when I rectify myself
then he will have no place here either! (Be'eros HaMayim Be'er Sheva
p60 )
Once the holy Rizhiner asked a visitor who had been Lag BaOmer in
Meron to describe the event. The chassid described how Lag BaOmer is
observed in Meron at the kever of Rashbi and he explained the way it
felt using the comparison that the great emotions inside where similar
to Yom Kippur whereas outside it felt like Simchas Torah!
This is no contradiction, for the awakening is the same awakening,
both are awakenings from Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai! Except inside it is
felt and experienced one way and outside a different way. The simcha
in Meron is also nisht kayn pashuta simcha - not a simple mundane
happiness or joy, rather it is a supernal holy joy – a hecher simcha!
(Imros Tehoros 49)
Rav Dovid Biderman of Lelov once told how on one of his visits to
Meron on Lag BaOmer he stayed in Tzefas and walked on foot to Meron.
As he travelled he passed an older woman who was also on her way to
Meron and she was very old and fragile and accompanied by a Jew
dressed in the manner of the Sefardim. They went very very slowly, as
the path to Meron is uphill and rises higher and higher. When she
finally reached the entrance to the burial cave she sat down and began
to weep, and she cried out in Hebrew with a Sefardic accent, "Rabbi
Shimon, Shechinta BeGaluta! – the Divine Presence the Shechina is in
exile!" Afterwards she asked a petition and requested some prayer in
Arabic that Hashem should have mercy and redeem and gather in all the
exiles she then kissed the Tzion turned any made her way slowly back
to Tzefas! Rav Dovid lelover was so moved by her simple pure faith
that he declared, Epes Mit Aza Temimus Tzigegangen – She came all this
long way with such faith and she prayed her prayer! (Imros Tehoros 49)
Reb Motel Avritsher (a descendant of the Bas Ayin) once told how one
Lag BaOmer in Meron he watched a Sefardic Jew who was present at the
hadlaka – the bonfire lit in honor of the holy Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. This Jew was so moved and excited that his pure heart was
aflame and he shouted out, Och Yah Rabbi Shimon! And so saying he
tossed his cloak into the flames to be consumed and burn in honor of
the Tanna. This did not calm him and he called out again louder Och
Yah Rabbi Shimon! And proceeded to toss into the bon fire another
article of clothing! He continued to do so, until he was left standing
in his Tallis Kattan and his breeches, at this point he began
ecstatically dancing aflame with delight and awe, moved to emotive
expression he danced and sang with such passion and fire that it
seemed that if he could have he would have thrown himself into the
bonfire in honor of Rashbi! (MiZekenim Esbonan I 102)
One day as Rashbi left his home he observed that the world appeared
dark and menacing like a great cloud had covered the land and blocked
the light of day. Rashbi turned to his son rabbi Elazar and said, this
is no chance occurrence, obviously Hashem wishes to do something, let
us see what He has planned to do in the world?! Rashbi and his son
exited the city limits and before them stood a terrible angel, as tall
as a mountain and from his mouth poured forth thirty tongues of flame!
Rashbi asked the angel, what are you planning to do? "I am about to
destroy the world because there aren't thirty tzadikim to be found, to
safeguard the world," answered the angel. "Go and tell my Creator that
Bar Yochai is here in the world and that he is comparable to thirty
tzadikim!" The angel went before the throne of glory and delivered
Rashbi's message. Hashem answered the angel, "go and destroy the world
and do not pay any attention to Bar Yochai!" The angel returned to
destroy the world again, once more Rashbi saw him and commanded him,
"If you do not return again to deliver a message I will send you to
descend down below to the depths from which you shall not arise to the
place of the fallen ages who were cast down from Hashem!" Rashbi
continued his message and said: "Tell Hashem that if there aren't
thirty tzadikim, twenty are enough as it says in the story of Avraham
and Sodom and Amora, and if twenty are no enough then ten suffice as
it says there and if there aren't ten tzadikim found then two should
be enough as it says, that two witnesses cangive testimony, and if you
cannot find two then there is at least one and I am that one as it
says Tzadik Yesod lam - a tzadik is the foundation of the world!"At
that moment a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Happy and
Praiseworthy is your portion Rabbi Shimon, for Hashem decrees and you
cancel and abolish it, regarding you it is said, "Ratzon Yerayav
Yaaseh – Hashem fulfills the will of those who fear Him." (Zohar
Bereishis 33a)
Once Rashbi arrived in Lod and there was a plague there, he witnessed
many stricken dying and he remarked, "All this is happening here now
while I am here present in town?! I command this decree be abolished!"
A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Mazikim – evil forces and
damage depart from this city immediately because Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai is in town, even though Hashem has decreed Rashbi has abolished
it." Immediately the plague ceased. Rabbi Chanina was impressed at the
greatness and stature of Rashbi and he went and told Rabbi Meir of
this. Rabbi Meir replied "Who can praise and compare to Rashbi? Even
Moshe Rabbeinu who sent Aharon with the incense to stop the plague
during Korach's rebellion, still Moshe had to have Aharon act, yet
Rashbi abolished the decree and stopped the plague by the power of
speech alone!" (Zohar Chadash Rus 103a)
In Tzidon there was a couple who lived together for over ten years,
they loved one another dearly but they had no children. They came
before Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and asked him to help them divorce
through a Get. I have just one request please do not refuse me, said
the tzadik, just as when you were united in marriage there was a
feast, please eat, drink and make a banquet now that you wish to go
your separate ways. The couple fulfilled the tzadik's request and they
held a large festive banquet and invited friends and scholars. As the
tables lay laden with food and drink and in the midst of the
merriment, when the husband's heart was glad with wine he turned to
his wife and remarked, "see all my goodness and wealth is here before
you, please choose any precious object here and take it with you back
to your father's house!" She was greatly moved by his words, and when
she observed that he had been plied with much wine and had grown
drowsy and fallen asleep she asked the servants to carry him and place
him in a bed at her father's home. When the husband awoke from his
deep slumber he gazed about and discovered that he was in a strange
bed and not at home. He turned and saw his wife sitting beside him and
asked her where he was. When she replied that he was in her father's
home he asked why she had done this? I was told that I could take any
precious object home with me, and so I found nothing more precious
than you and so I took you home! The couple came back and stood before
Rashbi and told him the entire tale. When he heard this and saw their
love for one another he stood up and prayed on their behalf for mercy
and they were blessed with children. (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba)
BonFires and Bows and Arrows
We will discuss two more customs for Lag BaOmer, Bonfires and Archery
with Bows and Arrows.

Rav Avraham Yaakov of Sadigura once said regarding the hadlaka of the
Lag BaOmer bonfire that "tens of thousands of souls are rectified and
receive their tikkun through the hadlaka of the bonfire lit for the
honor and glory of Rashbi!"

The custom to light bonfires in honor of Hillula DeRashbi on Lag
BaOmer is very old. The great light and splendor of the secrets of
Torah were revealed on this day and so a great fiery light is kindled.
The bonfires were sold often to the highest bidder and the honor to
light them given to the holiest rabbis and tzadikim. At one point the
holy Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin purchased this honor and right for himself
and his descendants for all generations till the coming of Moshiach
and till this day his descendant, the current Boyaner Rebbe Shilta
lights the bonfire.

The custom to perform archery with a bow and arrow on Lag baOmer is
found amongst the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and they brought it
with them to Eretz Yisroel. Some reasons for this custom include the
Yerushalmi Berachos 65a where rav Chizkiya declared in the name of Rav
Yirmiyah that during Rashbi's lifetime, the rainbow, was not seen at
all. (In Parashas Noach Hashem says that the rainbow is a symbol that
Hashem refrains from destroying the world again as He did with the
floodwaters of Noach because of the bris He made.) The generation of
Rashbi as cited by Rashi in Noach, was righteous enough to not need
the rainbow as a reminder or sign of this bris.

The Bnei Yissaschar cites Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanov to explain
the connection between the rainbow and the bow and arrow (Bnei
Yissaschar lag ba'omer 3:4) "The custom of the yeshiva students and
disciples of the rabbis is to shoot a bow and arrow on this day
because in Rashbi's generation the rainbow as never seen, and
therefore on the day he asceneded on high we remind ourselves of this
fact in this manner."

Rav Moshe Yechiel Elimelech of Levertov notes that the gematria value
of HaKeshes = Raban Shimon Ben Yochai.
The Magen Avraham of Trisk notes that "Lag baOmer = gematria of Moshe
and baOmer = 312 which is Shin Yud Beis, the acronym of Shimon bar
Yochai. This teaches us the two forms of Torah, Moshe's Torah, the
simple meaning of the text and the hidden esoteric secrets of rashbi's
Torah are both needed. Each one is a feature of LAG baOmer, and LAG is
the same letters as GAL, GALGAL means a wheel, half of a wheel is the
cresecent shape of the bow. When the bows are joined and both the
hidden and revealed Torahs are merged their union is like the archer's
bow, the primary weapon of war which we need to use to combat the
Yetzer Hara and wage war against him. The only way to truly due
teshuva is win the war against the yezter and so we take the weapon of
war the bow and arrow which symbolize the hidden and revealed Torah to
fight the evil one as our sages said, Hashem says "I created the evil
inclination and I created the Torah as the antidote and cure against

Thursday, April 28, 2016




It was Erev Shabbos and the holy Yid HaKadosh of Peshischa was in shul. All the G-d fearing baalei batim were also in shul reciting Shir HaShirim and preparing for Shabbos Kodesh!

The holy ear of the Yid picked up a soulful youthful shir hashirim whose sweet melody had an otherworldy sound! As the Yid leaned in to listen to this young child's recitation, he turned and said to the lad's father, "Your son recites shir hashirim just like Shlomo HaMelech!" All present were amazed by such a pronouncement and so saying the Yid HaKadosh ben down and kissed the young lad on his forehead.

This young boy was actually named Shlomo, years later he was well renowned as a tzadik and rebbe, he was none other than the author of the famed Chassidishe Sefer Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk!

"I always felt the Yid HaKadosh's kiss on my forehead for many years later. Until I became Bar Mitzvah and donned Tefillin. It was then after putting on and wearing Tefillin in that very same spot on my head, that I then realized that the Yid HaKadosh's kiss felt just like wearing Tefillin!"

A Rav once approached the Tiferes Shlomo for a beracha that he merit not having to pasken and rule over complex halachic matters relating to Chametz on Pesach. The Segula for this, explained the rebbe to the astonished Rav, is that you study all the halachos of Pesach from the Shulchan Aruch. The reason for this is, that each and every halacha from Shulchan Aruch yearns to be studied and learned. Since many of the halachos are neglected, therefore questions arise that cause the Rabbis to have to study and review the halachos to rule on these matters. If however you study all the halachos beforehand, then you can be assured that you need not be forced to study them by having them arise as questions of Chametz on Pesach!


Rav Asher of Stolin said that whoever has any sechel and intellect understands that when you get up from the seder, you can already hear them klapping to rouse the sleepers and banging on the shutters announcing Selichos.

When his grandson the holy Karliner used to say this he taught that it was hinted at in our parsha: because we read in parshas Achrei Mos the parsha of Yom Kippur.


Rav Asher of Stolin was so inspired when he read the parsha of Yom Kippur during Achrei Mos, that his soul almost expired in longing for Yom Kippur! He used to explain this with a Mashal:

Everyone was all in a rush, busy preparing for the great chasuna!!! The chassan and kallah were each busy with their preparations and so was the cook. There was a wedding feast to prepare and the cook was testing his finest recipes and delicacies in honor of the event. As he cooked and baked he tasted from each of the dishes. Hmmm. . .Ahhh what a sweet flavor! How else do you prepare for a feast?

Similarly this Shabbos is a taste of Yom Kippur to help us prepare, hmmm, ahhh how else do you prepare a dish without tasting it first?


Self sacrifice – Mesirus Nefesh

Rav Elimelech Biderman shared the following stories and anecdotes regarding Shevi'I Shel Pesach:

The Avnei Nezer explains that when Bnei Yisroel jumped into the sea before it split that this was an act of self sacrifice and mesirus nefesh. The power of such mesirus nefesh is that it can nullify and cancel harsh decrees and bring down any barriers between us and Hashem and silence any prosecution and accusations against us! Therefore Bnei Yisroel were now worthy of the sea splitting for them! (Shem MiShmuel) This is the power that now awakens on Shevii Shel Pesach that of Mesirus Nefesh!

Here is are some examples of what mesirus nefesh can achieve :

The Pezinger Rav was not officially licensed as a mohel to perform circumcisions according to the secular authorities. However he was asked to perform the milah for a Ger tzedek, however he soon began to bleed profusely. The Pezinger rav was very worried and he didn't know what to do: On the one hand if he went to seek professional help surely when the Doctor found out he had performed the bris and was not licensed he would report him and involve the authorities, the consequences of which could endanger all of Hungarian Jewry! On the other hand if the ger bled to death surely this incident would also endanger them all. What to do? He quickly went to the Chasam Sofer and asked him what to do, explaining the possible consequences and weighing all the outcomes.

"There is no choice," said the Chasam Sofer, "you must both sacrifice yourselves to save Hungarian Jewry, go to the riverbank and cast yourselves inside and save us all." Sadly the Pezinger rav and the bleeding ger both made their way to the river. As they approached the bank full of a sense of mission and personal sacrifice an old man saw them and gauging their determined look he engaged them in a dialogue and asked them where they were headed to and why? The rav explained the situation and the grave and dire possible consequences, "but what a silly thing to do!" exclaimed the old man, "to cast yourselves into the river and drown when I have here with my healing medicinal herbs that can put a stop to this bleeding!" And so saying he immediately went to work and sure enough shortly the wound was healed and the bleeding had miraculously stopped! Amazed the Pezinger rav turned to thank the old man, but he was gone! Somehow he had simply vanished into thin air!

When the Pezinger Rav confronted the Chasam Sofer he asked him, "rebbe, if you had the power to send Eliyahu haNavi to help us with a yeshua, why couldn't you have done so here in town? Why send us frightened have to death to the riverbank on a suicide mission you knew would fail and scare us out of our wits end?" "Ahhh," explained the Chasam Sofer, "You think you could merit to see Eliyahu haNavi when you sit here all calm and collected. . .eh? No, only when you accepted upon yourself true mesirus nefesh and self sacrifice then you acquired the merit to be zoche to see Eliyahu HaNavi!"

On a somewhat lighter note:

It was Motzaei Shabbos Selichos and a young driver was driving to his rebbe for the first selichos when he noticed a group of bachurim waiting by the side of the road for a hitch to give them a lift to the very same destination.

Although he was driving a small sporty hatchback he stopped and explained to the eager bachurim that he would love to take them all but, "there is just no room, so squeeze in as many as you can and whoever gets in gets the ride and whoever can't fit will just have to wait for the next lift, OK?" Where there is a will there is a way and somehow, don't ask me how, but all the bachurim, pushed, shoved, jostled and squeeeeezed in tight until somehow miraculously they all fit in!

Well wouldn't you just know it, but a few miles down the road our young driver was pulled over by a traffic cop who noticed that there seemed to be just a tad too many people squeezed into this here vehicle. The traffic officer grew more and more agitated when he ordered them all to step out and he proceeded to count no less than, "Fifteen bachurim!" he fumed and thundered, "You endangered the lives of fifteen young boys!"

Now you must understand, pauses Rav Biderman, traffic violations are no laughing matter! A traffic cop once told me how bad he felt serving summons and slapping fines on other frum yidden and so he approached the renowned posek Rav Shmuel haLevi Wosner Zatzal who told him that he was mechuyav al pi din, he was obligated by Torah law to give out fines and summonses to transgressors because of the life danger, sakanas nefashos that traffic violations cause!

Back to our story: The cop was beside himself with anger, he threw the book at our young driver and he not only fined him heavily and gave him points on his license he served him with a court summons to trial! The poor chassid came in crying to his rebbe, the rebbe upon hearing what he did also berated him for driving dangerously and endangering the lives of the bachurim, yet after he saw that the driver was truly sorry and remorseful, the rebbe gave him an eitza and a beracha, a blessing and some advice on how to handle the case!

When the trial began, the prosecution's case seemed open and shut, the traffic cop was summoned as a key witness and he testified before the judge and the courtroom, "Your honor, I saw with mine own two eyes how this driver recklessly endangered the lives of these bachurim." "Well," said the judge turning to the defendant, "what do you have to say in your defense?" "Your honor," began the driver, "surely it is pointless of me to try and defend myself against these charges it will just make a mockery of me and the court, instead I ask your honor to indulge me by doing me one small unconventional favor?" "Yes, what is it?" asked the curious judge, "my car, the one in question that I was driving that night is here, parked just outside could you please accompany me to it so I can demonstrate something?" The judge, the plaintiff, the traffic cop and the court stenographer all exited and followed the driver, they in turn were all followed by a gaggle of curious onlookers from the courtroom. What was the driver going to show the judge? "Here it is your honor, here is my car, now I ask you, your honor, is it possible, does the officer actually expect us to believe that somehow by some miracle, fifteen bachurim all fit into this car?" The judge look at the small vehicle that was built to seat five and turned his angry stare towards the traffic cop, he stood there bewildered by this unexpected development, "What is the meaning of this! Come on do you actually expect us to believe your story?!" he was yelling at the traffic cop! "But, but, but your honor, I mean I saw them, really I did, I tell you fifteen bachurim, I counted them!" he stammered. In the end the judge ordered fifteen passerby to attempt to squeeze in! But after the eighth barely squished inside, there was just no room!" Case dismissed, banged the gavel. Quietly, defeated and deflated the officer walked over to the driver and whispered,
"OK you won. Hey just between us, though, you know and I know the truth, somehow by some miracle fifteen bachurim were in your car. You explain it, tell me, how did they do it!"

Answered the chassid driver: "All these bachurim all had the same will and desire, to make it to the rebbe for selichos, well when you all share the same common goal and are willing to sacrifice, squeeze, push and experience pain and discomfort and achieve your goal, nothing can stop you, there is no stopping you, not even nature, lack of space and no room could stop them from getting in.

Similarly Klal Yisroel, with one goal and one mission to serve Hashem and perform His will, they determinedly willingly sacrificed with mesirus nefesh, not even nature, not even the sea could withstand them, and so it split for them and for us.

Finally a little humor:

A chassid once came to his rebbe, Rav Duvid Tolner for YomTov. How did you get here? Asked the rebbe. "Mitten Goy – answered the chassid, meaning off course I came with the gentile coachman who drove me and brought me. "Und mit vemen furstu tzurik aheim?" which simply means, "and with who are you going back?" Bewildered and not understanding the chassid simply answered, "Mitten Zelben Goy" with the same gentile coachman.

The Tolner rebbe asked the chassid pointedly, "Mitten Zelben Goy vus di bizt gekimmen erev YomTov furstu tzurik motzaei YomTov?!" With the same goy you came with before yomtov that's how you are going back after yomtov! The rebbe meant to hint to the chassid, that he may have arrived erev yomtov lacking in his Yiddishkeit and jewishness, but hopefully the YomTov had transformed him! The chassid's answer however made the rebbe remark sharply: What the same way you arrived is how you are leaving? Haven't you changed over YomTov? May this YomTov Pesach transform us so that when we leave we aren't leaving mitten zelben goy.

Friday, April 8, 2016

This cute Pesach poem was forwarded to me

Pesach Cleaning Questionnaire

In order for this questionnaire
To work the way it should,
You must be very honest
As I knew you would.

Go through the questions-
One, two and three,
Think through each one
Very thoroughly.

1. How many times
In the past year
Have you served supper
In the chandelier?

How you've done it
I'd like to ask
It surely wasn't
An easy task

Seating the whole family
On the fixture all around
Making sure that place up there
For every kid was found.

The serving must have also been
No easy feat;
Getting portions up on top
For every child to eat.

In the end, when all was done
Some crumbs stayed, I fear…
And so now you must start
Scrubbing your chandelier!

2. How often have you served
Your guests some food and drink
In the mirrored cupboard
Above the bathroom sink?

It must have been embarrassing
Trying to fit in,
Especially if the guest you had
Weren't very thin!

In the end, I hope they enjoyed
Your hosting, nonetheless,
But now you found the leftovers
And have to clean up the mess.

3. Just a few weeks ago
Did you have an urgent feeling
To serve the Purim meal
Upon the kitchen ceiling?

You must have used electric tape
Or maybe crazy glue
For everything to stick up there,
A real venahapoch hu!

In the end you all jumped down
But worthwhile it hasn't been,
'Cuz now out comes the ladder,
And the ceiling you must clean!

If you answered yes
To any of these three,
Go ahead and puff and pant
And be as busy as you can be!

But if you answered negative
Then stop fooling around,
Look for chametz only
Where it can be found!




"If a woman shall conceive and give birth to a male" (12:2).

Rav Hirschele Lisker, in his sefer Ach Pri Tevua, explained this pasuk in a unique way. He cites Chazal (Makkos 10b), that "whoever wishes to purify himself, they help him from above," and applies this to our pasuk:

If a person tries to succeed – even if he only applies himself a little and invests only a small effort, like someone who only plants the seeds (isha ki sazria), then veyalda zachar – he can bear a zachar mashpia. This refers to the aid of shefa and blessings that Heaven sends to help him with his efforts to succeed.

Whoever wishes to succeed, therefore, need only invest some minimal effort, and from shamayim he will be helped. However, he needs the light and sanctity of Shabbos to help him in this process. Thus, as Chazal say in the Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 27:10), we may not merit to visit and see Hashem before first visiting the Shabbos Queen. The pasuk tells us that the woman will be impure for seven days and then continues: "on the eighth day they shall circumcise his foreskin." In order to emerge from the tuma (impurity) of the seven days of the mundane workweek, we must experience Shabbos, which will free us to achieve kedusha.

The pasuk continues to tell us that "she must remain in the blood of purity for thirty-three days," which, together with the first week and Shabbos, is a forty-day period. The Rebbe Reb Melech of Lizhensk, in his Tzeitel Katan (16) tells us that in forty days a person can acquire a new teva, a new nature and new traits for himself. Whoever sets out on this course to sanctify and purify himself will succeed.

Rav Eliezer Dovid Friedman of London tells us that Rav Tzvi Kinstlicher once told how a person came before Rav Hirschele Lisker and complained, "Rebbe, I saw in the seforim that if a person refrains from speaking idle chatter for forty days he merits ruach hakodesh; I have refrained from all idle talk for forty consecutive days now, yet I have not been zoche to ruach hakodesh – why?"

Rav Hirschele thought for a moment and asked, "Tell me, did you daven during these forty days?"

"Yes, of course, Rebbe!" replied the astonished man.

"Well, there is your answer then! That must have been your idle chatter!!!"

Rav Friedman tells us that in the sefer Ach Pri Tevua, which Rav Hirschele's family published soon after his passing, they recorded a conversation which Rav Hirschele had had with them: "When I was younger, I desired to purify my soul and come to the truth and to study the secrets and wisdom of Kabbala. I did not succeed (he said in humility), and therefore I decided that since Tzaddikim teach that we can transform ourselves in forty days and be reborn as a new person, I would separate myself from the desires and pleasures of this world for forty days. On Shabbos I was weak and fell asleep; at midnight I awoke from my sleep like a newborn, and I tasted the fragrance and flavor of Gan Eden which I had never tasted before, and all the flavors of this world were disgusting and evil-smelling. From then on, all sinners were evil-smelling to me, as well as haughty, arrogant people; I could not stand their sight nor be in their presence because of the stench!!!"



Rav Elimelech Biderman shared these Divrei Torah about Parshas Hachodesh:

The Shem MiShmuel (Mishpatim) teaches that on Rosh Chodesh Nissan Hashem breathes new life into every one of us, and this continues annually for all generations; each year on Rosh Chodesh Nissan Hashem gives into the heart of every Jew new life. This works only for those who seek to purify and renew themselves (just as during the Exodus those who didn't seek to be redeemed died during the Plague of Darkness and remained behind).

Rav Hirsch Meshares of Rymanow teaches (Be'eros Hamayim) that the pasuk Hachodesh hazeh lachem – "this month shall be for you the head of all months," means that Nissan is the leading month for all forms of hischadshus (renewal) and all future renewals; it is in our hands to merit this strength of soul and begin to serve Hashem anew with added strength!

The first Gerrer Rebbe, author of Chiddushei Harim (Likkutei Harim) teaches us that a chodesh (month) means that each month a Jew is granted the power and ability to renew himself and began his avodas Hashem afresh! The pasuk Hachodesh hazeh lachem teaches that it is all in our hands. If we realized this – that whatever we can achieve is in our hands, that we have the ability to transform and renew – then surely we would not waste even a moment!

As we prepare for the awesome level of inspiration of the upcoming Seder night, we should have in mind that the Beis Aharon of Karlin taught (Pesach 85b): "Whoever serves Hashem sincerely can take away great awesome things from the Seder nights, in spiritual as well as in physical matters. Not only great people with lofty souls, even simple people, coarse individuals and lowly souls – each person merits this on his own level."

Rav Yaakov Eliyahu Lazer, author of Sova Semachos, once spent Shabbos Para in Shinova with Rav Yechezkel Shraga. As he prepared to leave on Motzaei Shabbos, waiting in line to receive the Rebbe's blessings of departure, the Rebbe expressed his surprise and said, "What, you are not leaving already, are you?!"

"No, no!" answered the gabbai instead of Rav Yaakov. "No, of course not! He is staying for several more days!"

"Good, good," said the Rebbe. "A talmid should spend Shabbos HaChodesh with his Rebbe and then he can merit to transform himself into a new person!"

Later, Rav Yaakov reported that what he had experienced and witnessed that Shabbos could not be put into words. Only one thing did he reveal: the incident that occurred during the beracha of Ahava Rabba on Shabbos day. The spiritual awakening and intensity were too much; he ran out of the Beis Medrash and burst into tears. As he sobbed, he felt that indeed he was transformed into a new person!


The Bnei Yissaschar teaches us in Agra Dekalla that the first twelve days of Nissan correspond to the twelve tribes and their offerings. These special days each correspond to an entire month of the year, and those who have pure, refined eyes can see the future of each month of the upcoming year on each one of these days, as we all witnessed from our master, the holy Rav Yaakov Yitzchok, the Chozeh of Lublin, who recorded what would happen each month of the coming year every day of the first twelve days of Nissan. He passed away in the month of Menachem Av and that year, all he wrote for Av was one word – Menachem.

The Zohar teaches that holy souls awaken each day of these twelve days of Nissan and we recite the pesukim of the korbanos offerings of the Nesi'im for the chanukas hamizbe'ach (the inauguration of the altar) Some have the minhag to read this from a sefer Torah, and a special tefilla is then recited.