Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you G-d?

In his commentary on Bereishis 37:33, Rashi provides and answer to the question why Hashem didn't reveal the truth to Yaakov concerning the fate of his son Yosef.

Rashi explains that Yosef's brothers made an agreement amongst themselves not to reveal what they had done with their brother. It is mentioned that the brothers included Hashem in this agreement so that even Hashem was forbidden to reveal the truth.

How could this be?

How could Hashem be included in an agreement to keep the truth from Yaakov?

How could a human being have this power over Hashem?

Can anyone explain this to me? I am obviously missing something here.

Does anyone else have the same question?


I am certain of receiving a share in the World-to-Come. You wonder why? When I'll be facing the Heavenly Tribunal they'll ask me, "Did you devote your days to the study of Torah?" I'll answer "No." Then, they will ask me, "Did you pray properly?" Again I'll answer "No." And when they will ask me the third question, "Did you perform acts of kindness as you should have?" I'll give them the same reply. Then the Holy One Blessed is He will pronounce the sentence, "Elimelech, you told the truth. And for telling the truth you deserve a place in the World-to-Come. "

(Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Selling Yosef HaTzaddik for Air Jordans

Years ago when Nike released their new line of tennis shoes, there were stories in the news about people robbing each other and sometimes even killing each other for Air Jordans. While we might shake our head in disgust at the African-American community because of this, there is a historical precedent for this in our own community.

This week's parsha, Parshas Vayeishev, contains the story of the sale of Yosef into slavery by his own brothers. Bereishis 37:28 relates that Yosef was sold to the Yishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. A midrash further relates that the Yosef's brothers used this money to buy shoes. [This fact is also mentioned in Amos 2:6]

This story appears once again in the Yom Kippur machzor in the story of the Ten Martyrs. The Sages were asked to rule on a question of halacha by the Roman ruler. He asked them, "If a man is found to have kidnapped any of his brothers of the children of Israel, enslaving him or selling him - what is the law?"

The Sages replied that the kidnapper should be sentenced to death.

The Roman ruler then asked, "Where are your forefathers who sold their brother; they traded him to a caravan of Yishmaelites, they exchanged him for shoes!?"

There was no response, and the Sages were tortured and put to death by the Romans for this crime.

I have heard it explained (although I cannot recall the source) that one of the reasons that we do not wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur is to rectify the sin of the sale of Yosef; who was sold for shoes.

Since sinas chinam caused the sale of Yosef for a pair of leather shoes we refrain from wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur to remember the causeless hatred and animosity that still exists amongst us to this very day...the hatred that prevents Moshiach from coming sooner.

Didn't I know this already.....?

Usually, persons asking for advice have already solved their own problem without knowing it.

(Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz)

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Rabbi Beroka of Bei Chozai would frequent the marketplace of Bei Lefet. The prophet Eliyahu often appeared to him. Once, Rabbi Beroka said to Eliyahu: "Is there anyone in this marketplace who is destined for the World to Come?"

In the meantime, two other people entered the marketplace.

Eliyahu said to Rabbi Beroka, "These ... are destined for the World to Come."

Rabbi Beroka approached them and asked, "What do you do?"

They replied, "We are comedians and we go to cheer up those who are depressed. Additionally, whenever we see two people involved in a quarrel, we strive hard to make peace between them."

(Talmud – Ta’anis 22a)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Yitzhak ben Nochum z"l - 13 Kislev

The 13th of Kislev is the yahrzeit of my grandfather Yitzhak ben Nochum. My grandfather was a doctor at Temple University for fifty years of his life. Besides being a doctor he was also a professor of medicine at the medical school. One year he was asked to give the address to the graduating class. Below are some of his words from that day in 1957:

"Although we are constantly moving forward in scientific medicine, there is a great need to return to the better doctor-patient relationship that existed in the past...Certainly we must teach science and treat our patients scientifically, but we must not worship science and in doing so neglect man as a person."

May the neshoma of my grandfather have an aliya today, the day of his yahrzeit.


A person must take care of his body, because when it is ill his soul becomes weak too.

(Baal Shem Tov)


This morning I finished lerning the sefer Degel Machaneh Ephraim for the second time. While I understand very little of what is written in it, I lern a little bit of Degel Machaneh Ephraim every day without fail. Those who know me understand why.

The sefer is so incredibly profound that now I probably understand only 2% of what is written in it. Tomorrow I will start it again for the third time....hopefully understanding a little more of what the Rebbe wrote.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Keep it Simple

Very often our problem is that we think too much, and that we complicate that which is simple.

(Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Shimon & Levi's Bar Mitzvah Bash in Shechem

I have always wondered whether American Jews understood the origin and true meaning of the Bar Mitzvah. I sure didn't when I was 13.

If you look in the Torah, you don't see any mention of a Bar Mitzvah. You never read about Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaakov, or even Moshe Rabbeinu having a Bar Mitzvah. Where does it come from?

The age that one has his Bar Mitzvah, 13, is derived from this week's parsha, Parshas Vayishlach. Yaakov Avinu's sons Shimon and Levi were 13 years-old when they killed all the male inhabitants of Shechem (today called "Nablus") to avenge the abduction and rape of their sister Dina. This is the origin of Bar Mitzvah!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once commented, "The fact that a source for Bar Mitzvah is derived from Shimon and Levi imparts another very important lesson: As soon as one becomes thirteen years of age, one is expected to have mesiras nefesh to defend and protect the integrity and sanctity of Klal Yisrael as well as each and every Jew."

Do you think most Bar Mitzvah boys think about this at their party?

Have we gotten away from the true essence of what a Bar Mitzvah is all about?

Resolving dilemmas

When confronted with a serious dilemma you must resolve, ask yourself: How would I decide if it was Nei'lah on Yom Kippur?

(Rabbi Yisrael Salanter)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rebbe Nachman's Advice For My Day Of Jury Duty

And retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge and without his knowledge. (Pirkei Avos 3:16)

It is taught in the name of the Baal Shem Tov:

Before any Heavenly decree is passed against the world the whole world is gathered together and asked to endorse the judgment. Even the person against whom the judgment has been decreed is asked whether he concurs. Then the judgment is concluded.

If one were asked about himself, he would certainly protest and say that the judgment is not correct. However, they mislead him and ask him about a similar case. He passes judgment, and then they render their verdict concerning him.

This is like what we find in connection with King David, when Nathan the Prophet came to him and told him the story of the guest. King David declared, "As G-d lives, the man that has done this deserves to die. And he shall restore the lamb four-fold…" (II Shmuel 12:1-6). Then judgment was rendered against David according to this pronouncement. Thus the Mishnah states: "And retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge…" That is, they ask him his opinion. And, nevertheless, it is "without his knowledge" for he does not know that the judgment is against himself.

The subject of how they ask every person is very deep. In all the conversations and stories one hears, high and lofty matters may be found. Therefore one must be very careful not to pass judgment until he has reviewed the facts a second and third time, for it may be a matter of life and death.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Busy days lately

The last few days have been busy. Our refrigerator finally conked out after being fixed on three previous occasions, my daughter had to go to the doctor to treat a staph infection on her back, and today I got called to serve on a trial as part of my jury duty. The trial should probably only go on for one more day and then I will be able to return to work.

It seems like the world is spinning fast these days....but hey, it is all good!


Through the mercy of fools, all justice is lost.


Sunday, November 21, 2004


Something you should understand is that however acute your problems and difficulties may be, the very problems themselves always have an angle which in itself offers a solution.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Reb Simcha says in the name of Reb Dilbert

Simcha and Dilbert both bring up interesting questions concerning the challenges of blog content.

I think these are issues we all address in our lives in the blogoshere.

I welcome feedback on my blog as well.

Gut Shabbos!

Jury Duty

I have jury duty on Monday.

I am not sure yet whether I will try to be selected or whether I will use my old standard line: "I always believe the testimony of a police officer." It is not that I actually believe this, but this line always gets you off the hook from having to serve.

Nevertheless, it will be nice to have the day off from work and have the time to sit and lern and maybe finish reading the new Sharansky book.

I always like getting paid for not working.


Don't worry about tomorrow's trouble, for you know not what the day will bring. Perhaps you will not be here when tomorrow comes, and so you have worried about a world which is not yours.

(Talmud - Yevamos 63b)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Book Recommendation

Last night I started reading Natan Sharansky's new book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror. Sharansky, given his life experiences, has a unique perspective of politics and the world around him. It is an extremely interesting book and I recommend it to everyone.

...and if you have not read it already, his book Fear No Evil: The Classic Memoir of One Man's Triumph over a Police State is also an amazing book. It is one of my favorites.


Today, the 5th of Kislev, is the yahrzeit of the Maharsha.

The Baal Shem Tov believed that the works of the Maharsha were written with ruach hakodesh, and once said of him:

"Had the world truly recognized the greatness of the Maharsha, people would kiss the earth of his grave."

Information on the Maharsha can be found in the links below:





The best way to guide children toward a designated set of values is to set the example personally. The personal behavior of parents and the decisions that children watch you make in countless situations make more of an impact upon them than what is said to them directly. So also do the thousands of casual conversations children overhear between mother and father, between parents and friends. It is not what parents claim to profess, but what they do is the real indicator of their beliefs and values.

(Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Whatever happened to Bilhah and Zilpah?

Maybe I am missing something.

In this week's parsha, Parshas Vayeitzei the Torah tells us that 4 of the 12 children of Yaakov Avinu come from Bilhah and Zilpah. In the Midrash it is related that Bilhah and Zilpah were also daughters of Lavan, but daughters who were born from Lavan's concubine. Thus, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah are all step-sisters. Bilhah and Zilpah were given to Rachel and Leah by Lavan as maidservants. Later, both Bilhah and Zilpah become wives of Yaakov Avinu along with Rachel and Leah.

The Torah tells us that Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Naphtali and Zilpah gave birth to Gad and Asher. Four of the Twelve Tribes thus descend from Bilhah and Zilpah. Interestingly, later in Parshas Zos HaBeracha, when the 12 tribes receive their brochos, these 4 tribes who come from Bilhah and Zilpah, are mentioned last.

Given the fact that these two women were wives of Yaakov Avinu and gave birth to tzaddikim, why are they not mentioned later in the Torah?

Why doesn't the Torah relate were they were buried (obviously not in the Machpela in Hevron)?

Why don't you ever meet a Jewish girl with the name Bilhah or Zilpah?

Whatever happened to Bilhah and Zilpah?

Where can the missing details be found?

Pilpul - not for me....yet

I never went to yeshiva. I am not used to the pilpul that goes on there.

I have found that lerning Gemara takes total concentration. When lerning a blatt of Gemara I need total silence. If someone else is talking I just can't concentrate. I don't know how well I would do in a yeshiva with the constant hum of lerning in the background.

I know that optimally Gemara should be lerned with a chavrusa, however given my current work schedule, commute, and familial obligations, I do not have that luxury at the current time. So, for the time being, I lern on my own....slowly, slowly.

Every Jew learning Torah must strive to reach for the hidden, the secret, within it. Whether he is learning the text on a simple scholarly level or studying the arcane meaning, he must always try to reach for the mystery, which is the light of G-d in that Torah.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

The challenge of parnossa

A person is unable to regulate the flow of his own blood, so he does not give it a thought. But if he could control his own circulation, he would never have a moment’s peace. He would worry constantly about maintaining the proper balance and live in terror that he might mishandle it and place his life in jeopardy. In regards to parnossa, G-d has issued a challenge to man, giving him enough leeway to delude himself into imagining that his prosperity depends on his own efforts.

(Rabbi Simchah Zissel of Kelm)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Another anti-negativity post

We can all identify things that are negative around us.

We can rarely change them.

Don't waste time on the negative and become part of the problem.

The only thing you can change is yourself.

Correct yourself first and only then you may correct others.

(Talmud - Bava Metzia 107b)

Petty Arguments

Sometimes you can see what a person is all about by his petty arguments, by what bothers him.

(Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi)

Monday, November 15, 2004

8 hours pay for no work!

It is a great day!! I got to work this morning only to find that the building was shut down for the day because of problems with the plumbing. So, now I am home and have the day to spend with my family.

....and I get paid for it!

On an unrelated subject, here is a quote someone sent me via e-mail that I thought was worth sharing:

"He who always speaks softly is loved by G-d and desired by people."

(Pele Yoetz)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Planting seeds

A city dweller who for the first time saw a farmer plant seeds, thought, "That man must be insane. Why is he taking good grain and burying it in the ground?" Only much later, after he saw the grain grow did he understand the reason for burying the seeds in the earth. When we see things happen that appear to be destructive we lack the foresight that would show us that these are seeds from which good will later emerge.

(Maggid of Dubno)

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Someone who does not reserve one hour everyday for oneself is not human.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Friday, November 12, 2004

I LIKE/LOVE this parsha question

I have heard several rabbis discuss how we consistently misuse the word "love" in our everyday conversation. As an example, it is not uncommon for a person to say "I love chicken!".

The rabbis commented that a person doesn't really LOVE chicken. He may enjoy the taste of chicken, may enjoy eating chicken, but he doesn't love chicken the same way that he loves his wife. What the person is saying is that he really LIKES chicken.

So here is the problem, in this week's parsha (Parshas Toldos), Yitzhak Avinu says:

"Then make delicacies for me such as I love and bring it to me and I will eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die." (Bereshis 27:4)

How do you explain the fact that Yitzhak Avinu used the word "love" when referring to food? The Torah is always extremely precise in the language it uses. What is it trying to tell us by using the word "love"?

Note: In the original Hebrew, the pasuk says "k'asher ahavti" (such as I love), so this is not just a problem of mistranslation.

I would appreciate any insight anyone may have.

The purpose

Torah was not given to mankind for any other purpose other than to refine people.

(Bereishis Rabbah 44:1)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Symbolic Foods & Arafat's Death

At the Rosh Hashanah meal we said:

"May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that our enemies be consumed."

It looks likes this worked!

Maybe we need to eat more dates.

Rebbe of Radoschitz HY"D

Today, the 27th of Cheshvan, is the yahrzeit of the Rebbe of Radoschitz. The Rebbe was one of the six million who perished during the Holocaust. During his entire time in the ghettos and concentration camps the Rebbe took particular care to eat only kosher food.

The Rebbe of Radoschitz once said:

"As long as a Jew takes care to put no forbidden food into his mouth, the Divine image remains in him, intact. A man like that, a Jew of that kind, cannot possibly harm is brother Jew and cause him physical injury. Once he begins to befoul his mouth with forbidden, unkosher food, however, his heart grows stupefied and ruthless. The Divine image of the Holy One, blessed is He, departs from him. And then he deteriorates, to arrive at whatever state of brutality he reaches. This member of the Jewish people is no longer what he was before. He changes. He definitely becomes another person."

Note: The Rebbe's biography and teachings can be found in the book One Jew's Power One Jew's Glory: The Life of Rav Yitzchak Shumuel Eliyahu Finkler the Rebbe of Radoschitz in the Ghetto and Concentration Camps by Yechiel Granatstein

Bragging about tzedakah

Under no circumstances should a person glorify himself with the charity he gives. And if he does glorify himself with it, not only does he forfeit all of the reward for the mitzvah, but he will even be punished for his bragging.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

News Junkies

Some people I know are self-proclaimed "news junkies".

While it is important to know what is going on in the world, when we watch the news we are only passive observers.

What do we gain by over-exposing ourselves to newspapers, magazines, and television?

Why do we need to know every single little detail of everything?

If we become more agitated and fearful of the world we live in by watching the news what have we accomplished?

UPS brought the Gemara to my front door last night. Today I am going to start my first blatt during my lunch break.


G-d loves beginnings.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Why do all Talmudic tractates begin with page two? To remind us that even if we know them from one end to the other, we have not even begun.

(Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev)

A better segula

The Satmar Rebbe observed one of his Chassidim rushing to get home after Shabbos. He asked the man why he was in such a hurry, and the man replied that he wanted to get home to fold his tallis since this was a segula for Shalom Bayis. The Rebbe said "doing the dishes for the wife is a 'besserer segula' " -- a better segula.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ignoring Gemara - A Simple Jew's Misguided Thinking

I have tried in the past to lern Gemara but was never successful. For some reason I just couldn't concentrate on it. Damages, contracts, ritual purity, agricultural laws, etc..... I came to the misguided conclusion that Gemara just wasn't for me. I couldn't maintain interest in the subject matter. Finally, after a few attempts to maintain a daily study schedule of Gemara, I just stopped lerning it.

On Sunday I went to a Gemara shiur at my shul and decided to start lerning Gemara again with a renewed enthusiasm. In the past I tried to keep pace with the Daf Yomi schedule and was quickly overwhelmed. This time I am going to start with Brochos and lern it very, very slowly. I ordered a Gemara yesterday and I will start lerning as soon as it comes via UPS.

I now realize the error in my thinking about Gemara. A Jew can't lern Torah and totally ignore Gemara. A Jew must search to find Hashem within its pages.

G-d willing, this time I will be matzliach.

101 times

He who studies a subject one hundred times cannot be compared to he who does so a hundred and one (Talmud - Chagigah 9b). "A hundred and one" means that a person's Torah studies must be imbued with the One - the Master of the Universe.

(Degel Machaneh Ephraim)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Oswald the Octopus and the War on Terror

One of my daughter's favorite shows is Oswald. In case you are not familiar with it, Oswald is a big blue octopus.

When my daughter watches this show she goes into a trance. No other show has this hypnotic power over her.

I thought the show was a snoozefest the first time I watched it. I could not get through a whole episode without falling asleep. The show is so mellow and soothing that even my wife falls asleep while watching it.

The thought came to me that perhaps they need to have this show on a continuous loop in prisons. After watching episode after episode of Oswald even the most hardened criminal will turn soft. Watching Oswald could help prepare prisoners for re-entry into society.

Here is another thought... perhaps they should translate the show into Arabic.

What are WE doing?

Any generation in which the Beis HaMikdash is not rebuilt, is considered as if they had destroyed it.

(Talmud Yerushalmi - Yoma 1)

Sunday, November 07, 2004


The sounds of silence are more elevated then the sounds of speech.

(Baal Shem Tov)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Virtual reality

Man can essentially create his own reality.

Each person lives in his own "real world".

What is "real" for one person is not "real" for another.

Man creates his own reality by choosing what he exposes himself to.

It is up to you to change your world.

You can make it a more peaceful world.

You can make it a more holy world.

This should give us pause

When a person questions why Jewish blood spills for no apparent reason, G-d forbid, and why there seems to be such harsh judgments against the Jewish people, the answer is because of the quarrelling in our midst.

(Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Fear: Tuesday morning story

In order to get to work I have to walk a mile before I get to public transportation.

On Tuesday morning while I was walking early in the morning I almost ran in to a bad situation. Up ahead of me in the darkness I heard the voices of some rough sounding individuals apparently up to no good. I immediately had a bad feeling since a week before there was an attempted home invasion in this neighborhood.

Thank G-d I had enough time to change my route and proceed undetected. I can only imagine what might of happened to me if our paths crossed.

I have been on edge the last two mornings walking.

I don't like to be afraid.

I wish I could rid myself of this fear.

Expanded consciousness

Chassidus has a concept of mochin d'gadlus [expanded consciousness] and a concept of mochin d'katnus [constricted consciousness].

When a person is in mochin d'gadlus he is happy, thinking clearly, and is receptive to see things within their larger context.

When a person is in mochin d'katnus he is lethargic, his mind is distracted, and he can not see past the circumstances that he currently finds himself.

It is a constant struggle for one to remain in a state of mochin d'gadlus.

It is a struggle to keep a smile on your face day in and day out.

It is a struggle.

A struggle against oneself.

Who is strong? He who conquers his evil inclination.
(Pirkei Avos)


The main component of all controversy is the absence of dialogue, the unwillingness to listen to what someone else has to say and understand it from his perspective. If people would really know how to talk to each other, most of the time they would discover that they have nothing to argue about.

(Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschitz)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Why do I care?

Why am I sitting here listening to the news? It doesn't matter either way who wins.

For the vast majority of Americans it makes very little difference in our daily lives who the president is.

Why do I care? I voted for my son.


Whoever denigrates others, denigrates them with a blemish that he himself possesses.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

An answer to Jack Shack's question

Here is the answer to Jack's Shack question:

"A random thought is not without meaning."

(Rabbi Nachman Horodenker)

I am voting for....

My son.

He is still a baby - not even 6 months old.

My wife thinks that this is ridiculous.

She thinks that I am making a mockery of the whole system by writing in a candidate that is not even eligible to be president.

Well, that is my decision.

Call me silly.

Call me ridiculous.

Tell me I am just "throwing my vote away".

Go ahead tell me.

After work I am going to vote for him unless I hear a reason why a vote for either candidate is not a vote in favor of the expulsion of Jews from their homes and the uprooting of Jewish cemeteries in Gaza.

Both candidates support this.

I don't.

In my view, voting for a candidate would be giving my tacit approval to expulsion. Morally, I cannot do it. I cannot turn my back on my fellow Jews in Gaza.

So, this election I am thinking outside the two party political paradigm that we are prisoner to and voting for a candidate who doesn't engage in mud slinging,

a candidate who has a clean record (except for his diapers),

a candidate who isn't swayed by large corporate donations,

a candidate who isn't a millionaire himself,

and a candidate who still views the world with pure eyes and a pure heart.

I am voting for my son.

Hero of the simple

I have a question about Rashi's commentary on the Chumash.

Rashi said that the purpose of his commentary is to explain the simple meaning of the text. Yet there are many times in his commentary on the Chumash where he provides a detailed analysis of grammar and etymology of words.

My question is how is this keeping in line with just explaining the simple meaning of the text?

I ask this question because I sincerely do not know the answer. I am not asking it to denigrate the greatness of Rashi.

Not in my job description...

A person never has the right to say, "This is outside of my element. I have no obligation to deal with this." If it is something that, by Divine Providence, one has been made aware of, that means that there is something one can do to positively influence the end result.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Breaking News: Suicide bombing in Tel Aviv market

In Olam Haba we will someday meet those who were killed in terrorist attacks in Eretz Israel.

What will we say to them?

Neshomas and Blogs

When we are dealing with blogs, we are dealing with neshomas.

We can not see the person who blogs. We can not hear them.

We can only read their words. Words that come from within them; expressing who they really are.

We are dealing with their essence; their neshoma.

If only we could look at our fellow Jew and not see the exterior.

If only we could look at our fellow Jew and see the holy and pure neshoma that is inside every Jew!


We humans chase over the world to find things: We climb high mountains; we descend to the nethermost depths of the sea; we trek to the wilderness and to the desert. There is one place where we neglect to search - our heart. But it is there we will find G-d.

(Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin)