Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Red Heads In Bizzaro World

My daughter ran into her twin from Bizarro World at a Lag B'Omer barbeque. Amidst the crowd of dark-haired and dark-eyed children was another two year-old with curly red hair and blue eyes. Wearing a little green outfit, she looked like she had just jumped off a box of Lucky Charms. The two red-heads immediately gravitated towards each other and had a great time mimicking each other as if they were playing in front of a mirror. It was absolutely adorable to witness.

Once we got home my daughter repeatedly told us:

"Wanna see my green friend. WANNA SEE MY GREEN FRIEND!!"

Perhaps one day this red-headed dynamic duo will reunite to foil the evil plans of Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Keep Your Word To A Child

Keep your word to a child. This way your honesty will serve as an example and it will become the child's nature to speak the truth.

(Talmud - Sukkah 46b)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Lag B'Omer - 5754

On 17 Iyar 5754 (1994), I went to the immerse in the freezing cold water of the Ari's Mikvah in Tzfat before leaving for the Lag B'Omer festivities in Meron. At that time I did not realize that Reb Hanokh Henekh Buchman, a lumber merchant from my family's shtetl discovered this mikvah and provided the necessary funds to restore it in the late 1870's. Here I was on the yahrzeit of the rebbe of my family's shtetl immersing in a mikvah restored by a landsman from my family's shtetl. This certainly could not have been a coincidence.

Lag B'Omer in Meron was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen in my life. Arriving in Meron, a friend and I made our way past the tens if not hundreds of thousands of people to the top of the building housing the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. With bon fires burning and Chassidim dancing and singing, I spotted an old man surrounded by his followers. It was the Lelover Rebbe. I approached the Rebbe and he extended his hand to me and gave me a brocha. He handed me his pair of scissors so I could participate in the upsherin of a three year-old boy standing in front of him. After taking a snip of the little boys hair, my friend and I remained up on the top of the building for some time taking in the sights and atmosphere.

The memory of Lag B'Omer in Meron will remain with me my entire life. G-d willing, I will be able to return there one day along with my family.


I don't believe in philosophy - I believe in ideas that change people.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Degel Machaneh Ephraim

Today, the 17th of Iyar, is the yahrzeit of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim.

Today is the yahrzeit of the tzaddik that I consider to be "my Rebbe" even though he passed away 172 years before I was born. This tzaddik was the rebbe in my family's shtetl and his sefer is my conduit to the past and path of my ancestors.

Rabbi Lazer Brody and learned a little bit of this sefer together in January. After learning a small piece on the topic of kedusha and speech, Rabbi Brody suggested we learn something in this sefer relating to the parsha of that week, Parshas Beshalach. At the end of the paragraph Rabbi Brody's eyes lit up, having found the connection between what we were learning and my own personal connection to this sefer. Excitedly, he translated the Degel's words from Hebrew:

"...and I wrote this for perhaps Hashem will provide that one of my sons or my students will come and understand and expound upon this."

Four years ago I visited the kever of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim in Medzhebuz. I left a kvittel there asking for Hashem's assistance in parnossa and also for Hashem's help to be able to understand this tzaddik's sefer. Within four months of my return home I got a new job with a $28,000 pay raise.*

I am still working to receive the second brocha of understanding. Each day, without fail, I continue to learn a bit of the tzaddik's sefer. Today, on his yahrzeit, I completed it for the third time and started back on the first page for the beginning of the fourth cycle. If each time I complete it I understand 1% more, I need to go through it at least another 96 times.

...or perhaps 101 times.

* The Degel Machaneh Ephraim is buried next to his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov. On the 27th of Tammuz 5761, my wife and I both left a kvittel on kever of the Baal Shem Tov asking that Hashem bless us with our first child. We found out that my wife was pregnant on the third night of Chanuka that year.

The brocha of parnossa that I received provided a salary that continues to enable my wife to stay home to this day, thank G-d.

Note: It is a little known fact that April 30, 1945, the day Adolf Hitler (may his name be blotted out) committed suicide, corresponded to the 17th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar. Perhaps it was the merit of this tzaddik that rid the world of Hitler.


The newborn infant may be brimming with genius and talent--but he or she has not yet done anything with it. So what's there to celebrate? Who's to know whether the potential will be realized? Or that is will be realized toward good and G-dly ends? The day of a person's passing, on the other hand, is the culmination of his or her mission in life. This is when the sum total of his or her achievements have come to actuality, to wield their combined influence on our lives. This is why the yahrzeit of a great person is such a special occasion: when we celebrate a life, we do so at its point of greatest impact upon the world.

(Rabbi Yankel Tauber)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Echoing & Parenting

I learn a lot of my parenting skills from my wife who is a stay-at-home mother. She recently made me aware of the phenomenon that she refers to as "echoing". This occurs when a parent tells a child to stop doing something and is immediately "echoed" by the other parent with an identical command. It usually results in the child ignoring both parents or becoming as overwhelmed as a new recruit the first day of basic training when the drill instructor screams at him.

We witnessed an extreme case of "echoing" at a playground this past Sunday when my two year-old daughter climbed up on a toy that another little boy was playing on. Immediately, the little boy's mother told her son to watch out for my daughter. The boy's father came over and repeated her words. Two seconds later, the boy's grandmother and grandfather came over and "echoed" the same message as the parents. All four of them hovered over the child and told him to be careful. One can only imagine how this made the little boy feel.

This event made it quite apparent that "echoing" does not serve a constructive purpose. If a child does not respect the authority of one parent alone, a cacophony of commands by others will not convince him otherwise.


But of all parental techniques, there is none that has so many beneficial side effects as positive feedback. Positivity gives both parents and children a more joyous perspective on life.

(Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Passed The Test!

Back in February I posted about the topic of maintaining composure in the face of insult and ridicule by a difficult co-worker. Over the past few months I have worked hard not to let myself be brought down to my co-worker's level. I took the practical advice offered in the book "The Trail to Tranquility" and looked at this difficult situation as a personal test from Hashem.

Instead of ignoring my co-worker and giving her the "silent treatment", I made sure to great her each morning and speak to her in the friendliest possible manner. During times that she was in a foul mood, I remained silent and simply walked away. I never once responded to her verbal assaults

In my original post I wrote that my co-worker would disappear into thin air when I was successful and had passed this personal test. I am happy to report that I have passed! While she hasn't disappeared into thin air, she has just been transferred to another floor in my building....to a cubicle far, far away.

Just Started This Book Today

Rescuing the Rebbe of Belz: Belzer Chassidus - History, Rescue and Rebirth

Losing One's Temper

A person must be long-suffering in all aspects of his character. He should never become angry or irritated over anything. No matter what he has to go through, he should bear everything patiently without being blown off course. He should let nothing make him lose his temper.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Preparation For Lev Ba'Omer / Tov Iyar

This Thursday (17 Iyar) I plan to post on the topic of the yahrzeit of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim.

Before his yahrzeit each year I try to think of what practical action that I can take to strengthen my hiskashrus (attachment) to him, and thus to Hashem.

Last year I took it upon myself to learn a tiny amount of his sefer after each time that I davened. This was in accordance with his advice that it is extremely important to learn Torah immediately after davening.

Besides learning this sefer after davening, I also learn it on my lunch break each day. Although it would be difficult to increase the length of time that I learn it, I can increase the concentration and enthusiasm in the way I learn. The Degel's nephew, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, once said "Concentrate on your studies, read the words in order and with enthusiasm. Understanding will then come of itself. What you do not understand at first, you will comprehend later."

This is my plan of hiskashrus for Lev Ba'Omer / Tov Iyar* this year.

*Lev (lamed-beis) is the gematria of 32. 17 Iyar is day 32 of the Omer and thus "Lev Ba'Omer".

Tov (tes-vav-beis) is the gematria of 17, and thus the 17th of Iyar is also known as Tov Iyar.

Source: 1942 printing of Degel Machaneh Ephraim


You cannot possibly imagine what tremendous pleasure a tzaddik derives when his Torah is studied down on this world. This joy causes his entire Heavenly chamber to radiate with a special brilliance. The tzaddik's blessing then protects the person studying, guarding him and his offspring.

(Tzemach Tzedek)

An Easier Method

The Imrei Emes once travelled to visit the kever of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias. En route, the Imrei Emes became sick and told one of his chassidim, "Come, let us return home; there, we will be able to reach Rabbi Akiva through an easier method." - through learning his teachings in the Talmud.

A Saying of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

Any Torah scholar whose teachings are repeated in this world, his lips murmur in the grave.

(Talmud - Yevamos 97a)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Faith Amidst Kassam Rockets

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tied the concepts of faith, prayer, Eretz Israel, and miracles together in Likutey Moharan I,7. Today Gaza's Jews provide a perfect example of his teaching.

During the past five years, Palestinians have fired over 5,500 rockets and mortars at Gaza's Jewish communities. While these these communities have suffered a few causalities they continue to witness countless miracles that have strengthened their resolve and their faith. A section in the Gush Katif Hagaddah describing these miracles notes, "We have faith that G-d did not perform all these miracles for us merely so that we could be expelled from our homes."

Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, Chief Rabbi of Gush Katif, also recently remarked, "It's simply a privilege to live here at this time. Until now, we have learned about belief - in our yeshiva studies, and when we study Torah and Talmud. But now, we are actually living faith - it is something real, it is taking real shape. It's not easy, but there is a feeling that our faith is getting much stronger, much more concrete. It is a privilege."

The simple faith of Gaza's Jewish residents is an example for all of us.

Here is a way to help our brothers and sisters in Gush Katif and increase our Ahavas Yisroel during these days of sefira.

Book Of The Week: Run East

After reading this post from Zman Biur, I decided to pick up a copy of Run East: Flight from the Holocaust by Jack Pomerantz. I am now 89 pages into it and find it to be extremely interesting.


By preserving and emulating customs of the tzaddikim with whom we feel an affinity, we reinforce our bond of attachment to them.

(Rabbi David Sears)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Land Of Pickles: Eretz Israel According To A Toddler

Twice a week my two year-old daughter goes to a class for toddlers at our shul. Using colored clay they made the seven species for which Eretz Israel is praised.

When I got home from work on Tuesday night she proudly showed me her new "art" and told me about each of the seven species.

What do you have here?


How many species have you shown me?

"1, 2, 3, 5, 9 - 9 - 9"

And where can I find all of these?

"Eretz ISA'el"

* A listing of the seven species is found in Devarim 8:8

Search Engine Key Words And Where They Ended Up

John Gotti's Email Address

Berlitz Class

Air Jordans

Fragile House of Cards

Jew Slave

Lochshen Kugel

Origin of Bar Mitzvah

Chasing The Flashes In Your Mind

When you want to come up with new ideas in the Torah, you must concentrate on one particular subject. Take a verse or a subject and review it many times, hammering on the door until it is opened for you.

Sometimes a thought flashes through your mind and is then forgotten. You must be a man of valor, pursuing it until it is recaptured.

(Sichos HaRan #58)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Changing World: Cubicle Security

Yesterday I attended emergency escape mask training. Along with others in my building, I now have a mask for use, if for some reason I need it.

I am very cognizant of the fact that when it is my time, it is my time. While a mask may certainly help save my life, I am also aware of the words of King David who said in Tehillim 127:1, "If Hashem will not guard the city, in vain is the watchman vigilant."

I am storing my new mask on a shelf in my cubicle alongside two seforim, a Tanach and Degel Machaneh Ephraim. Degel Machaneh Ephraim contains a haskama (approbation) of the Chozeh of Lublin that promises protection and assistance to anyone who delves deeply and learns the words of this sefer.

G-d willing, through learning the pages of this sefer I will be zoche never to need this mask.

"Purified air comes only through words of Torah. Words of Torah offer protection in general and for each individual in particular."

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

The Hardest Thing To Change

Not getting angry may appear easy enough, but really it is the hardest character change to bring about, because the nature of a person is to get upset at the slightest provocation.

(Rabbi Eleazer Shlomo Schik)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reunited In A Dream

In his sefer, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim recorded the visions he saw in his dreams during the years 1780-1786. In one of his dreams he recounted how he was reunited with his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, and how his grandfather hugged and kissed him. This particular dream occurred more than forty years after the passing his grandfather.

Yesterday as I reviewed this section containing the Degel's dream, I recalled a dream that I had shortly after I started seriously pursuing genealogical research - a dream about my grandfather who passed away when I was a teenager. In my dream my grandfather sat next to me with his arm around me while we paged through my black three-ring binder of genealogical documents and photos.

This dream made quite an impression on me. I felt as if my grandfather was aware of what I was doing and was together with my ancestors assisting me in my search.

Judaism And Genealogy

To search for roots, even in the simplest genealogical sense, is likely to be a meaningful experience on both the personal and religious levels. But it is important to pursue it even if the meaning is elusive. Lineage is not just a matter of empty self-congratulation. All lineage, and not just that of nobility, carries with it a certain responsibility. A great person discovered among one's ancestors is not just the cause for bragging but something that must be related to and learned from. The sense of kinship with such a figure can be a source of strength and encouragement to one suffering spiritual distress or self-doubt. It need not be a famous or distinguished figure; even a person - remembered or reconstructed - who was at one with himself and with the world can serve as an anchor point and source of commitment.

(Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Misusing Soap

Someone who buys a bar of soap and never unwraps it will never become clean. A foolish spectator will attribute this person's lack of cleanliness to the "ineffective" bar of soap. The spectator will come to the conclusion that it is impossible for any person to clean himself with soap.

Similarly, a person who sees someone who learns Torah but acts in a manner that is dishonest will come to the conclusion that there is no redeeming value or truth in the Torah. He will come to conclusion that this fact exempts him for observing the mitzvos. He will never spend the time to "unwrap" the Torah and let its teachings cleanse his neshoma.

In both cases, the basis for subsequent opinions and actions is the person's own misperception.

Rabbi Yossi's Reminder To Us

Rabbi Yossi said: Let your fellow's property be as dear to you as your own, prepare yourself to study Torah because it is not an inheritance to you, and all of your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.

(Pirkei Avos 2:17)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Question & Answer With Rabbi Lazer Brody - Part II - Giving Tzedakah To An Unworthy Recipient

A Simple Jew's asks:

It is recorded in Sefer HaMiddos (chapter Tzedaka, 12) that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov once said, "Giving charity to a poor person who does not deserve it carries no reward."

If a person is sincere and gives tzedakah to a person or organization that appears to be deserving but later finds out that this is not the case, is he still rewarded? Could you explain the reason for this? Is this saying that we need to investigate everyone we give tzedakah to in order to see if they are truly deserving?

Rabbi Lazer Brody answers:

To my very dear and esteemed friend "Simple Jew", may Hashem bless you always!

Your question is a superb one. Any utterance of Rebbe Nachman is solidly anchored in Talmud, Kabbala, and Shulchan Oruch, and the abovementioned passage about charity is certainly no exception.

The Gemorra in tractate Bava Basra (page 10b) says, "One should not give a coin to charity fund unless a person like Rabbi Hanina ben Tardion is in charge of the fund". To understand the full meaning of this Gemorra, we must examine Rashi's commentary in tractate Avoda Zara (page 17b). There, Rashi explains that Rabbi Hanina ben Tardion once accidentally distributed Purim donations (designated for making a collective festive meal for the poor) directly to the poor, to use at their own discretion. When he discovered that the funds were earmarked for a public festive meal, he let the poor keep the money he had already distributed and paid for the entire collective festive meal out of his own pocket. (As an aside, let me remind you that Rabbi Hanina B"T was one of the ten holy martyrs who was killed by the Romans).

Our responsibility, as elaborated in the above two tractates, to give charity to a fund managed by a pious, upright person behooves us to look for a truly worthy cause to use our charity money. This is not only a recommendation, but halacha (see Shulchan Oruch Yora Dea 249:7). The Ram"a further elaborates (ibid., 256:1) that one should not give to a fund managed by a person of questionable integrity, and certainly not give to a "con artist", or a person who is a fake.

The Yerushalmi Talmud in tractate Peah (Ch. 8, 7th mishna) says that we our allowed to give money for food to those who say they are hungry, but if they ask for clothing as well, we must first investigate whether they are truly in need of financial assistance. This principle as well is brought down in halacha (see Shulchan Oruch Yora Dea 251:10.

The latter-day halachic commentaries debate whether it is recommended not to give to those of questionable integrity and need, or whether it's forbidden. Breslever tradition says that giving to someone who is not deserving is like making an offering to idol worship, G-d forbid. That might sound a little strong, but Halacha also specifically prohibits us from giving charity to a person who willfully breaks Hashem's laws (ibid., 251: 1-2).

Hashem always gives a reward for good intentions (Tractate Kiddushin, 40a). Therefore, a person unwittingly gives charity to an undeserving cause, he or she are subject to a reward. But, Halacha requires - as Rebbe Nachman reminds us - that we do our very best to establish that we're indeed giving to a worthwhile endeavor. That means that we have the obligation to investigate. Remember, money that is earned honestly has a special holiness to it - we don't want to pass it on to the spiritual dark side.

May Hashem bless you always with the mitzva of tzedakka, and may you enjoy smashing success in all your endeavors. With warmest friendship, Lazer Brody


Visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's website here.

Question & Answer - Part I can be found here.

An Endangered Species

There will come a time when a simple religious man will be as rare and unique as the Baal Shem Tov.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Understanding Insanity

Last night my wife and I discussed our difficulty relating to our generation's materialistic values and sense of entitlement. My wife observed that people believe that they can buy happiness with a house that has twice the square-footage than the house they currently own. She asked me why she couldn't understand this logic. I answered that she shouldn't be able to understand it since a person cannot understand insanity.

A Small Hole

Strife is like a small hole in a dam. If it is not plugged up immediately, there will be a flood.

(Talmud - Sanhedrin 7a)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Story Behind A Post

My eleven month-old son started saying "Ma Ma Ma" on Sunday night [Mother's Day]. Day-by-day it is fascinating to watch his development and to see his little personality blossom. His soft blonde hair is now hanging down to his eyes.

Why is his hair so long?

If you read my posting of March 25 you probably didn't know what prompted me to write these words. My wife and I were deciding whether or not to observe the custom of upsherin with our son. While upsherin was a wide-spread custom back in the areas in where our families came from, it is a custom that has never been observed by our family since immigrating to this country at the turn of the last century.

After weighing the arguments for and against, it finally came down to the question, "...but what will other people say?" You may not remember the posting, but this was my reply. My wife, the non-conformist, couldn't help but agree with my reasoning.

Neighborhood kids will now be able to gather outside my lil' tzaddik's bedroom window and call out for him to "to let down his golden hair". ...at least for the next two years.

Criteria For Revenge

When outrage and fury impel you to take revenge, your emotion is rooted in a sense of pride. You are enraged because you have been offended, and your pride has been hurt. A person who is truly humble regards himself as nothingness and takes vengeance only if G-d's honor is maligned. Consequently, before you zealously take up G-d's cause you must meet two important criteria: you must be free of any trace of anger and must not possess any haughtiness.

(Yismach Moshe)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

When Differences Melt Away

I am lucky to have colleagues at work, one Muslim and one Christian, who I am able to discuss matters of faith and spirituality with. Once the differences separating us melt away there are two fundamental beliefs that we all hold in common:

1) G-d alone runs and controls the world.

2) At the end of our life we will have to give an accounting for our actions and how we made use of our time.

I have noticed that one of the main things separating "religious" people from "non-religious" people is how a person deals with control.

A truly "religious" person understands that it is only G-d who controls the world. The "religious" person comes to realize that while he can control himself by restraining his base inclinations, he cannot control factors external to himself. He understands that he can control how he relates to the world but not how the world relates to him.

A "non-religious" person, however, believes that he can, in fact, control things external to himself. And try he does. He tries to control the myriad of things in his life that ultimately lead him to frustration, anxiety, and anger.

Although it is certainly a generalization, one can determine a person's "religiosity" by observing how he deals with control.


Rabbi Nechunya ben Hakanah said, whoever accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares will be removed from him. Whoever casts off from himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares are imposed upon him.

(Pirkei Avos 3:6)

Perfect Faith In Oneself

One must have perfect in G-d -- believing that He is the Creator of everything, that He controls and supervises everything, and that He has the power to change the course of events any way He wishes and bless us with everything good.

And just as one must have perfect faith in G-d, so too must one have perfect faith in oneself. One must have perfect faith that G-d listens and attends to every single word spoken by every single Jew, even the lowest of the low. Every single Jew has the power to accomplish what he needs through praying to G-d truly and sincerely, as it is written, "G-d is close to all who call him".

(Likutey Halachos, Nachalos 4:3)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Ascending And Descending Wisdom From The Trumbum

In Likutey Moharan I,6, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that one needs to be an expert in the ascent when serving Hashem (baki b’ratzo), and also be an expert in the descent from peak spiritual experiences when serving Hashem (baki b’shov). Without knowledge and ability how to proceed in both these directions a person can stumble. It can be likened to a person who climbs a tree or a mountain too quickly and then is unable to safely make his way back down.

While running on my treadmill (pronounced "trumbum" by my two year-old daughter) last Thursday night I came to a further understanding of this concept.

When one first starts running he needs to run at a slower speed so he can consistently run for a longer period of time. The more frequently he runs, the faster and farther he will be able to run. If one usually runs at a speed of 7, running on 8 or 9 will quickly tire him out. The person does not need to stop completely when he is out of energy, he only needs to decrease his speed since it is not an "all or nothing" activity.

What does the treadmill have to do with baki b'ratzo and baki b'shov?

Running on the treadmill can be likened to a person’s service of Hashem. We need to start out slowly, increasing our speed as we build up our spiritual muscles. If we run too fast and become exhausted, we don't need to turn off the treadmill and stop, rather we need to temporarily slow down until the time when we are ready to sprint again.

Instant Gratification

Our task is to make sure the need for immediate gratification that so pervades our world doesn't invade our efforts in Torah, tefilah, and mitzvah performance, and chinuch ha-banim (education). Remember: What comes easily is parted with easily. The more of ourselves we invest in Torah, the more we value it, and the more dear it becomes.

(Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Nudnik Questions

I learn best in a one-on-one setting. Large shiurim are extremely distracting for me since they usually cater to the lowest common denominator and will commonly end up getting side-tracked by a person who finds something trivial to be problematic. The entire shiur becomes devoted to helping that one person work through his problem - a "problem" that could be easily resolved if he initially tried to look up the answer himself. (A Christian co-worker told me that this phenomenon often occurs in Bible study groups as well.)

Opening up Sichos HaRan on Thursday morning I found a thought in #32 that shed some light on the phenomenon of "nudnik" questions during a shiur:

"...the average person's questions are mere foolishness. Upon close examination, their questions turn out not to be questions at all. Many people are disturbed by questions for years, not realizing that their questions are actually answers. It is only their lack of intelligence that makes them seem like questions in the first place."

I couldn't say it any better.

Don't Become What You Do

A woman once came to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice on parnossa, asking him whether she should become a typist. The Rebbe replied, "Don’t become a typist. You are a mother. Type, if you feel you need to in order to support your family. But don’t become a typist."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dov Gruner HY"D

Today, the 26th of Nissan, is the yahrzeit of Dov Gruner HY"D.

Before Dov Gruner was hanged by the British in Acre Prison in 1947, he sent this final letter [translated from Hebrew] to Menachem Begin, commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi:


From the bottom of my heart I thank you for the encouragement which you have given me during these fateful days. Be assured that whatever happens I shall not forget the principles of pride, generosity and firmness. I shall know how to uphold my honour, the honour of a Jewish soldier and fighter.

I could have written in high-sounding phrases something like the old Roman 'Duce est pro patria mori', but words are cheap, and skeptics can say 'After all, he had no choice.' And they might even be right. Of course I want to live: who does not? But what pains me, now that the end is so near, is mainly the awareness that I have not succeeded in achieving enough. I too could have said: "Let the future take care of the future.' and meanwhile enjoy life and be contented with the job I was promised on my demobilization. I could even have left the country altogether for a safer life in America, but this would not have satisfied me either as a Jew or as a Zionist.

There are many schools of thought as to how a Jew should choose his way of life. One way is that of the assimilationists who have renounced their Jewishness. There is also another way, the way of those who call themselves 'Zionists' - the way of negotiation and compromise, as if the existence of a nation were but another transaction. They are not prepared to make any sacrifice, and therefore they have to make concessions and accept compromised.

Perhaps this is a means of delaying the end but, in the final analysis, it leads to the ghetto. And let us not forget this:in the ghetto of Warsaw alone, too, there were five hundred thousand Jews.

The only way that seems, to my mind, to be right, is the way of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the way of courage and daring without renouncing a single inch of our homeland. When political negations prove futile, one must be prepared to fight for our homeland and our freedom. Without them the very existence of out nation is jeopardized, so fight we must with all possible means. This is the only way left to our people in their hour of decision: to stand on our rights, to be ready to fight, even if for some of us this way leads to the gallows. For it is a law of history that only with blood shall a country be redeemed.

I am writing this while awaiting the hangman. This is not a moment at which I can lie, and I swear that if I had to begin my life anew I would have chosen the same way, regardless of the consequences for myself.

Your faithful soldier, Dov.

Most Effective Path To Teshuva

The most effective path to repentance is silence, not fasting.

(Mishnah Berurah 571:2)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

But You CAN Do Something

Sichos HaRan #27 states, "Proceed slowly, one step at a time. If you cannot do everything, it is not your fault. One under duress is exempted by G-d."

I cannot do everything. My time is divided between work and familial obligations. With an infant and a toddler at home:

I cannot attend every minyan.

I cannot attend late night shiurim.

I cannot attend every event at the shul.

Yet despite my constraints:

I can wake up and put on my tallis and tefillin and daven before leaving for work.

I can maintain a daily learning schedule by making use of time as I commute.

I can learn on my lunch break.

I can listen to shiurim in spare moments on my MP3 player.

I can daven at home.

While I cannot do everything, I can do something.

G-d willing, one day I will be able to say "I can" to those things that today I say "I cannot".


The Torah forbids deceiving someone. It is even worse when a person deceives himself.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Who Knows One

My two-year old daughter woke up a little earlier than usual on the last day of Pesach. I brought her downstairs so we wouldn't make too much noise to allow my wife to sleep in a little bit longer. It had rained the previous night and everything outside was still wet. Looking out a living room window my daughter said, "Water went on the grass." I used her observation to inquire further:

"Yes, there is water on the grass. Who made it rain?"

"The clouds"

"Yes, but who made the clouds?"

"The sky"

"...and who made the sky?"


"I believe with perfect faith that G-d is the Creator and Ruler of all things. He alone has made, does make, and will make all things." - from Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith

An Excellent Book I Am Reading

Through Fire and Water: The Life of Reb Noson of Breslov by Chaim Kramer

Spring Time

All my days I have been careful never to pluck a blade of grass or a flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of our sages that not a single blade of grass grows here on Earth that does not have an angel above it, commanding it to grow. Every sprout and leaf says something meaningful, every stone whispers some hidden message in the silence -- every creation sings its song.

(Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook)

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Red Flag Of Techno Babble

People in technical fields routinely use highly technical language to explain a situation or problem. Sometimes they use a lexicon that is only familiar to themselves as a form of arrogance. They believe that using sophisticated words and concepts will convince the listener to turn off his own mind and blindly follow what they say.

The Chazon Ish wrote that, "The simple meaning is always the true meaning." That is, truth can be found in simplicity. A red flag should go up your mind when something seems overly complex to you, alerting you that either what the person is telling you is not true, or that he needs to explain himself in a manner that is more easily understandable.

It is not unreasonable to think that a common person will be confused by computer terminology, advanced scientific principles, or complex mathematics. A true genius is the person who can take these disciplines and explain them in way that even a small child can understand.

Fulfilling Them With Simplicity

Shortly before Reb Noson passed away, he gave a very deep sigh. When asked the reason for this he replied: "It occurs to me that perhaps I have not properly fulfilled what Rebbe Nachman taught."

The people standing around him were amazed. "If not you, then who can honestly say that he has fulfilled Rebbe Nachman's teachings?!"

"As to fulfilling the Rebbe's advice," Reb Noson answered, "I did what I could. The question is, have I fulfilled the teachings with the simplicity that the Rebbe demanded of us?!"

(Rabbi Nachman Burstein)