Archive for August 2013

Parsha Vayechi



First Portion: I’d like to ask the reader a question. Are You the Same Person You Were Five Years Ago? My wife has always said that I still have scars from my days when I was single. I got married late and I had a difficult time finding the right one. BARUCH HASHEM! My wife says that I’m very cynical. I tried to explain to her that I’ve always been cynical; it’s me! In this week’s parsha we find the SAME O’L YOSEF. Yaacov wanted his son Yosef to swear that he would take his remains to Israel. Those who are buried there are privileged to be resurrected first when the MASHIACH will come. Those buried outside Israel will have to go through a very painful and delayed process of rolling underground towards the holy land. For this reason, burial plots today are prime real estate in Israel.


By Yosef swearing, it reaffirmed and reassured Yaacov’s belief that Yosef remained a tzaddik even though he went through the trials and tribulations of being captured as a slave as well as being a leader (involved in politics) of a non-Jewish nation. Both are major obstacles. One (being captured) was depressing and the other had the pitfalls of tremendous desire. Nevertheless, Yosef remained Yosef. Yaacov noticed a very important consistency in his attitude. Only a truly righteous individual can weather any storm and not say ” ahh what does G-d want from me? No matter how good I am I’m still getting the short end of the stick!” The attitude that Yosef had was that I am a servant of G-d and this is the situation G-d wants me to be in now; nothing should get me down”. This a very difficult test for all of us. However, this is the optimal attitude that G-d wants from us and one that we should all have.


The Divrai Chaim, one of the Chasidic greats of many years ago, once said that he was jealous of Rabbi Hershel, who was one of the Torah Giants of his generation. Doing kindness is of major importance in our religion and the Torah Greats would be front and center in accomplishing this MITZVA. “I am jealous because when an opportunity to give charity comes and Rabbi Hershel doesn’t have the funds, he does not feel bad in saying I don’t have; I do. I feel bad. He has the proper, but most difficult, attitude of saying “this is the situation G-d wants me to be in today”; NO FUNDS, CAN’T GIVE. CAN’T DO A KINDNESS. He felt no pain because this is what G-d wants. It was for this reason that the Divrai Chaim was jealous. One has to be consistent in his attitude towards any situation that comes his way, because at the end of the day, we have to weather all storms and say to ourselves that this is the situation G-d wants me to be in!!


Second Portion: Yaacov tells Yosef “your two sons will be added to the list of the tribes”. In other words, Yosef gets a double portion, which is what all first-borns get. The first-born status was taken away from Reuben and transferred to Yosef, who actually was the first-born to Yaacov from a different mother (Rachel).

* Yaacov crosses his arms as he is giving the bracha to Yosef’s sons. His right hand crosses over to Efraim, the younger son, and on Menashe, the eldest, he placed his weaker hand, his left hand.


Third Portion: Yosef alarmingly informed his father that his right hand is not on the first born, fearing more rift and jealousy among the offspring. Yaacov reiterated “I know, he will also be great”. Apparently, Yaacov saw through Divine powers that Yehoshuah will come out of Efraim. Therefore, Efraim needed an extra boost, an extra “jolt”, of Bracha.

* Yaacov gave the city of Shechem to Yosef as an inheritance. Yosef received a double portion because he was now the first born ever since the status was taken away from Reuben.


Fourth Portion: Yaacov wished to reveal to his sons the time of the arrival of the Moshiach. However, G-d had a different plan. The redemption had to remain concealed because G-d was afraid that future generations would despair during their exile if they knew that the destined time was a long way off. G-d therefore made the Divine prophesy departs temporarily from Yaacov. However, Yaacov not knowing this, was afraid that the prophesy departed from him because one of his sons were unworthy of the Divine blessing. He therefore asked his sons, ” How can I know if your hearts are fully with G-d?” They unanimously responded “SHEMA YISRAEL HASHEM ELOKANU HASHEM ECHAD” -”Hear Yisrael (Yaacov), Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one”. Yaacov bowed in thanks to G-d and answered quietly “BARUCH SHEM KEVOD MALCHUTO LEOLAM VAED” -”Blessed be his name whose kingdom is forever”.

* Yaacov then proceeded to give each one of his twelve sons a bracha. They were not ordinary brachots; they were composed with divine assistance.

* For acting impulsively and moving the main bed of Yaacov to his mother’s tent, Reuben lost the first-born status. This occurred after the death of Rachel, Yaacov’s favorite wife. For after Rachel died, he proceeded to put the bed in the tent of one of the other wives. Reuben wanted to protect the honor of his mother. Reuben was out of line by trying to direct his father and instruct him where to sleep.
* Levi received the Kehuna, while Yehuda received the kingdom.


Fifth Portion: Yaacov continues to bless his sons.

* A question arises – why wasn’t Yosef chosen to be the leader of the Israelites? Why did it instead come from Yehuda? Yosef proved he could lead as he was the viceroy of a superpower nation. However, Yaacov was concerned that as noble as Yosef was, he would provoke jealousy. (Abarbanel)


Sixth Portion: * Yaacov again instructs his children that he wants to be buried with his fathers in the Mearat Hamachpelah in Chevron, Israel.

* Both Yaacov and Yosef anticipated the problem that Pharaoh might not let them proceed to take Yaacov’s body to Israel. Yaacov was a good- luck charm for the Egyptians. The famine stopped immediately after he arrived. This is a pattern in history, wherever the Jews are, there is blessing. Still, the gentiles hate us and want to see us suffer. They want us to suffer and stay. When my wife left Bukhara, the natives (Uzbeks) would often say to her “we need to have ten Jews here or there is no good luck for us” (Jews traveled in groups of ten- a minyan). “While you are here, the country flourishes” the Uzbeks continued.


Yosef had a protective plan. Anyone who was royal had to know 70 languages; Yosef knew them. However, Pharaoh did not know Hebrew. Yosef used this as leverage and told Pharaoh that he would not divulge his secret if he would let Yosef bury Yaacov.


* Yosef reassures his brothers that he has no ill feelings toward them. They were concerned that after their father’s death he might retaliate for selling him.


Seventh Portion: After many years, Yosef passes on. Before his death, he instructs his brothers that when the time comes, he would also like to be buried in Israel.

Reflecting Back On The Mah Nishtana



There’s an old saying, “Time marches on, it doesn’t stop for anybody.” We blink our eyes and the wonderful holiday of Pesach is history. There are many customs among our great nation for many of our chagim. Over the course of the holiday of Pesach, I had spoken to many people and I came across this touching story of Rav Baruch Dopelt. His name may sound familiar to some of the readers; this is because I quote him in many of the Divrei Torah which I write and lecture on.


He mentioned that his custom at the Pesach Seder is that everybody who is sitting at the Seder table gets a chance to say the Mah Nishtana to their father. This is because the Seder is all about asking questions to the elders. It doesn’t matter what age they are; everyone recites it. Of course, the youngsters are thrilled with the opportunity for the limelight. However, the teenagers are a bit embarrassed and feel it’s not their speed anymore to recite the questions. But there are those like Rabbi Dopelt, who’s a grandfather many times over, who has been saying the Mah Nishtana, with the exception of this year, to his father ever since he can remember. Unfortunately, his father passed away this past year and he discontinued his questions. There is a feeling of a tremendous loss at the table. I can definitely feel for Rabbi Dopelt, having lost my father eight years ago. I can still remember him sitting in his customary joma (holiday robe) and excitingly answering the Patriarch response to the questions, ‘avadim hayinu.’ Rav Dopelt said how nice it would be to say the Mah Nishtana one more time to his father.


It seems like Rabbi Dopelt and I have inherited quite a responsibility. Now we are the Patriarchs of our family and it’s our task to pass down the tradition of our families that goes back three thousand years. It’s a challenge to step up to the plate and give over to your children what your father has taught you all these years. The sages say to keep it fun and interesting. We, the Patriarchs, are now in the entertainment business; and it’s worth a million dollars to see your child respond eagerly to your stories and answers.




“And the fire came down and consumed Nadav and Avihu as they were bringing a sacrifice to G-d.”


Twenty years ago, there was an individual who I thought would have been an excellent candidate to be the president of our community. A president back then was considered a tremendously influential job, who made some major and serious decision. This position was as important as the Rabbi of the community. The old guard were on their way out and this individual was a perfect choice. He was married with children, multilingual; he was very successful in business. He was Orthodox and he looked like Harrison Ford. The community desperately needed a strong leader. He would have been able to mesh together all the colorful personalities and bring out their best to help the community. He was influential and diplomatic, and both he and his wife had elegance, pizazz, and class.


However, it seemed like he had other plans. He and his family decided to make Aliya (migrate) to Israel. The dream that some of us had to build and unite this community was dashed. My heart bleeds with the unfulfilled potential he had. If he only knew, and if some of us were made aware of his talents, maybe it would have been an entire different ballgame.


Potential could make and change worlds; however, one has to be wise to bring it out of himself or bring it out of other people.


In the early 1900s, the NITZIV, a famous Rabbi in the Jewish literary world, once threw a celebration dinner to commemorate the finishing of one of his books. At the dinner, he told the story of his past. The NITZIV was not a very strong student, and one night he overheard his parents’ conversation in which they were seriously considering taking him out of Yeshiva and making him learn a trade, the shoemaker business. Coming from a famous Rabbinical family (Rav Chaim Veloshin was his grandfather), the NITZIV was appalled. He rushed into the room and begged and cried not to take him out of Yeshiva and they should give him one more chance.


Apparently, from that moment on, the NITZIV took his learning seriously and excelled to become the great Rabbi who taught thousands Torah, and his seforim (books) enlightens millions.


At the dinner, the NITZIV continued and said “I would have been a very good shoemaker and I would have been diligent in being kovea itim laTorah (learning a set amount of Torah daily). I would have been a fine up-standing citizen and waited to collect my reward from shamayim (heaven). However after 120 years, the heavenly court will judge me harshly and show me these books and say, ‘look, you didn’t live up to your potential; you could have written these masterpieces’.”


On Yom Kippur morning, when a person reads the portion about the death of Aharon’s sons (which we find in this weeks’ Parsha), he should feel sorrow to a point of tears. If one can get to that state of mind, then he will merit forgiveness for his sins and he will not see death of his children in his lifetime. What should one feel exactly? He should feel how man effects his surroundings and how a righteous man elevates his society. He should feel the magnitude of the loss. If a person misses the opportunity to acquire wisdom, then society losses. Nadav and Avihu’s mission in this world remains unfulfilled. Rashi, one of the main commentaries, says Moshe thought that Nadav and Avihu were greater than he and Aharon. Although one cannot question G-d of the circumstances of His world, one can feel the potential being taken away. In some instances, we have no control; however, in some, the potential is endless.

Parshat Shemini

First Portion: * THE INAUGURATION!!! Much has been written in the Torah about  G-d’s  Temple, the sacrifices, the utensils, and the individuals who perform the heavenly work. In this week’s Parsha, the majestic temple will finally begin to operate; opening day at the Mishkan. It will be a liaison between G-d’s chosen people and their master. The Temple was a tremendous opportunity for the Jews to get close to G-d. No time in our history have we had a spiritual closeness than in the period of the Temple and its sacrifices. Apparently, one can logically assume, it’s a major source of celebration. However, the Parsha begins with the word ‘Vayehi’ – and it was; every time a sentence begins with that word, it signifies that trouble lies ahead.

* One of the punishments of Adam and Chava (Eve) for their sin for eating from the tree of knowledge, was that any happiness that mankind will incur will be marred by a percentage of bad. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we break the glass at the chupah at a wedding; we remind ourselves of the destruction of the Temple; one should have a little sad feeling at the celebration. We are hoping that by breaking the glass, representing the uneasy memory of the destruction of the Temple, will replace the possibility of a negative occurrence which might take place, and may be harsher. Unfortunately, here, we have one of the most spiritual celebrations of the Jewish people, and tragedy will occur.


Second Portion: * For the first time, the kohanim performed the task of presenting sacrifices to G-d; until now, the firstborn were in charge. However, after the sin of the golden calf, the firstborn, who were responsible as spiritual leaders, were stripped of this high position.

* Aharon, the high priest and Moshe’s brother, was a charismatic figure. Evidence of his charm is the fact he was the broker of peace to many. Whether it be between husbands and wives or businessmen trying to settle a dispute; he had a way with people; they sensed his sincerity and reacted favorably and did what he said. Aharon’s response to the people was always with enthusiasm. He was so excited to show his love to his nation on the day of the inauguration, that he instinctively raised his hands to bless the people. As a reward for the affection he had for the people, every kohen since, has the opportunity to bless the people daily (Ashkenazim three times a year). This ritual is started by the kohanim raising their hands as Aharon did that very first time. The kohanim mention Aharon and the word be’ahava – with love in their blessing as a tribute to the affection he had.


Third Portion: * Tragedy strikes the Israelites as Nadav and Avihu, Aharon’s two oldest sons and the heir – apparent to the leadership, are killed, consumed by fire from their unauthorized sacrifices which they performed. Many reasons are given why they perished. We will mention a few:

– They were not married; therefore, it was difficult to control ‘the fire within’ them. Therefore, they were not focused on their task.

– They performed their duties intoxicated. The celebration of the inauguration spilled over to a part of the day which being sober was a must. From here we learn, don’t pray drunk.

– They were a bit haughty; they couldn’t wait to take the position of leadership from Moshe and Aharon.

Rashi (main commentary on the Torah) says Moshe thought they were greater than he and his brother Aharon. A good number of commentaries say, on the contrary, there was no negativity attached to their sacrifice; they were on a mission to go where no man has entered which is as close to G-d as possible, and unfortunately they went beyond the point of return. Regardless, it was a tragic loss for the Jewish people.


Fourth Portion: * The kohanim have to observe special laws of purity which forbid them to touch a corpse. However, there are exceptions such as a death of a close relative for whom a kohen has to mourn and whose burial he has to attend. A high priest, on the other hand, is never permitted to leave the avoda (Kohen’s task) even if his own parents die. On the eighth day of the inauguration, G-d applied the laws of the high priest not just to the kohen gadol Aharon, but to his remaining sons. They were forbidden to exhibit any signs of mourning for their brother’s death, but were commanded to continue the service. Interruption of the services of the mishkan would spoil the joy of the newly constructed tabernacle.


Fifth Portion: * Moshe gets angry. Our sages teach us a general rule: A Torah scholar, who displays anger or arrogance, loses his wisdom; a prophet loses his prophecy. Apparently, Moshe erred and forgot the law as a result of getting angry.


Sixth Portion: * G-d taught Moshe which species of beasts, birds, and fish a Jew may eat and which are forbidden to him. Why did G-d allow the nations of the world to eat any food they desire while he imposed restrictions on us? The reason is that we possess pure souls and therefore we are negatively affected by the consumption of non-kosher foods.

* The Torah describes the signs by which a permitted animal can be distinguished from a forbidden one.

– Beasts – only an animal possessing two of the following characteristics is kosher: 1) Its hooves must be split throughout. Some animals possessing hooves which are partially split but join at the bottom are not kosher; the hooves must be comprised of 2 distinct parts; possessing two nails 2) It is ruminant, that is having swallowed its food, it regurgitates it once again in order to chew it.

– Fish – A fish must possess fins and scales. However, as long as we find scales on the fish, we may consider it kosher since every fish which has scales possesses fins too.

– Birds – The Torah lists 21 non-kosher birds. These are listed instead of the kosher birds; they are fewer in number than the kosher ones.

– Insects – Some locusts are permitted. Nevertheless, since we do not have a reliable tradition, they are all prohibited.


Seventh Portion: * Sheretz \creeping animals – It is forbidden to eat any creeping animals on dry land or in water. The reason for the stringency is because of the snake which belongs in this category. Because of the memory of the snake being instrumental in the sin of mankind, any creeping animals similar to it is forbidden. That’s how much G-d is repulsed by the snake for what he did.

The Business of Kashrut


My father always warned me to never enter the kashrut business. The temptation of corruption is great and inadvertent mistakes are quite common. Little did he know I would become a Rabbi. The truth is, I’m perfectly happy keeping busy behind the computer keyboard, than behind a kosher meat market kitchen. Kol hakavod to those brave Rabbis who take it upon themselves to maintain a standard of excellence at these facilities. It surely is a tremendous task and a big responsibility.


My father mentioned how common it was, in Stemarkand, Russia, for a butcher to threaten the Mashgiach’s life if he did not give his stamp of approval. Thank G-d today in America, we have some strong kashrut organizations that will not tolerate such shenanigans. Unfortunately, sometimes a story comes out with horrific consequences. Does anybody remember the butcher in Monsey, NY who sold non-kosher chickens to many in the New York and Philadelphia area for years?


According to our sages, if one consumes non-kosher food, it ruins the ability to reach and comprehend any levels of spirituality, even inadvertently. One might wonder why some people just can’t get into it while others are just enjoying some aspect of Torah and Judaism. They look at the people enjoying the Torah like they are weird because they cannot relate. Well, they cannot relate because their pipes to the heavens have been clogged up. I wonder if they’re not jealous of the spiritual individuals, that they can feel something that they cannot. This is the result of non-kosher consumption. It’s not for naught that Orthodoxy takes enormous pains, time, money, and skills to make sure everything is tip-top. The authorities are trying to avoid damage to our precious souls. This is the main reason we’re so meticulous.


Those of you who read my articles weekly, know that they are pretty positive and encouraging. However, it’s a pretty sticky subject. I’d like to share this gruesome story with you.


There was once a butcher in the town of Tzippory who used to sell non-kosher meat to Jews. Once, on Yom Kippur eve, he ate a heavy meal, drank wine, and ascended to the rooftop. In his intoxicated state, he tripped, fell, and broke his neck. The dogs assembled to lap his blood. Yom Kippur has already begun, and the people hurried to R’ Chanina to ask him whether it was permissible on Yom Tov to carry the corpse to a different place where it would be protected from the dogs. “Leave it where it is,” ordered R’ Chanina. “This man cheated the dogs out of legal reward assigned to them by the Torah.” It says “Do not eat traifa meat, but throw it to the dogs” (Shemot 22:30). However, this man fed the Jews non-kosher meat, thereby withholding it from the dogs. They therefore are coming now to claim their reward.


Kashrut is a very serious business on both sides of the fence, both on the eating and on the selling. Please use precautionary measures.


The Power of Love


          The “gold standard” with regard to making peace and loving your fellow man was epitomized by Aharon HaCohen, second in command over the Jews when they left Egypt camped in the desert. He was also Moshe’s brother. Aharon loved his fellow Jew like no other. Rav Eliyahu Dessler, one of the leading contemporary rabbinical figures, expounds on this concept using a parable. World War II and the accompanying Holocaust was witness to one particular, amongst many others, family consisting of a mother, father and son, being torn apart. Neither member of the family knew if the other was alive and all were feverishly searching for each other. Miraculously, five years later, they were reunited. The son, now eight and living with his father after the war ended, receives a very emotional hug and kiss from his mother, as his father tearfully looks on.
          The question was asked- who loves the son more at this juncture of time, the mother or the father?
          One may argue and say a mother’s nurturing and natural love for her children is supreme and cannot be matched. Plus, the yearning and anticipation of the reuniting surely caused the mother and son to be highly emotional. Nevertheless, the fact that the father raised him, alone, all these years- he changed his diaper, did homework with him etc., places him in position to love him more.
          Rav Dessler’s concept of “the more you give the more you love” is one of great importance in our relationships with our spouses, children, family members and friends.
           Aharon HaCohen  was constantly giving of his time in making peace between couples and any broken relationships which were presented to him. His gesture of love towards the people as he blessed the congregation is copied by every Kohen today as they bless the people (see highlight section).
          A reminder of loving your fellow Jew, as Aharon did, is brought out in this obituary article of Rabbi Herchel Shachter, which I think is worthwhile to read:

Rabbi Herschel Schacter Is Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’



Published: March 27, 2013


The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.


It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.


That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald.


By late afternoon, when the rabbi drove through the gates, Allied tanks had breached the camp. He remembered, he later said, the sting of smoke in his eyes, the smell of burning flesh and the hundreds of bodies strewn everywhere.


He would remain at Buchenwald for months, tending to survivors, leading religious services in a former Nazi recreation hall and eventually helping to resettle thousands of Jews.


For his work, Rabbi Schacter was singled out by name on Friday by Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, in a meeting with President Obama at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.


In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.


“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.


He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.


“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!” – “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.


As he passed a mound of corpses, Rabbi Schacter spied a flicker of movement. Drawing closer, he saw a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror behind the mound.


“I was afraid of him,” the child would recall long afterward in an interview with The New York Times. “I knew all the uniforms of SS and Gestapo and Wehrmacht, and all of a sudden, a new kind of uniform. I thought, ‘A new kind of enemy.’ ”


With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schacter picked the boy up. “What’s your name, my child?” he asked in Yiddish.


“Lulek,” the child replied.


“How old are you?” the rabbi asked.


“What difference does it make?” Lulek, who was 7, said. “I’m older than you, anyway.”


“Why do you think you’re older?” Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling.


“Because you cry and laugh like a child,” Lulek replied. “I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?”


Rabbi Schacter discovered nearly a thousand orphaned children in Buchenwald. He and a colleague, Rabbi Robert Marcus, helped arrange for their transport to France – a convoy that included Lulek and the teenage Elie Wiesel – as well as to Switzerland, a group personally conveyed by Rabbi Schacter, and to Palestine.


For decades afterward, Rabbi Schacter said, he remained haunted by his time in Buchenwald, and by the question survivors put to him as he raced through the camp that first day.


“They were asking me, over and over, ‘Does the world know what happened to us?’ ” Rabbi Schacter told The Associated Press in 1981. “And I was thinking, ‘If my own father had not caught the boat on time, I would have been there, too.’ ”


Herschel Schacter was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn on Oct. 10, 1917, the youngest of 10 children of parents who had come from Poland. His father, Pincus, was a seventh-generation shochet, or ritual slaughterer; his mother, the former Miriam Schimmelman, was a real estate manager.


Mr. Schacter earned a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University in New York in 1938; in 1941, he received ordination at Yeshiva from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a founder of the Modern Orthodox movement.


He spent about a year as a pulpit rabbi in Stamford, Conn., before enlisting in the Army as a chaplain in 1942.


After Buchenwald was liberated, he spent every day there distributing matzo (liberation had come just a week after Passover); leading services for Shavuot, which celebrates the revelation of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, and which fell that year in May; and conducting Friday night services.


At one of those services, Lulek and his older brother, Naftali, were able to say Kaddish for their parents, Polish Jews who had been killed by the Nazis.


Discharged from the Army with the rank of captain, Rabbi Schacter became the spiritual leader of the Mosholu Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue on Hull Avenue in the north Bronx. He presided there from 1947 until it closed in 1999.


He was a leader of many national Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, of which he was a past chairman. He was most recently the director of rabbinic services at Yeshiva.


Rabbi Schacter, who in 1956 went to the Soviet Union with an American rabbinic delegation, was an outspoken advocate for the rights of Soviet Jews and an adviser on the subject to President Richard M. Nixon.


A resident of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Rabbi Schacter is survived by his wife, the former Pnina Gewirtz, whom he married in 1948; a son, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, who confirmed his father’s death; a daughter, Miriam Schacter; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.


And what of Lulek, the orphan Rabbi Schacter rescued from Buchenwald that day? Lulek, who eventually settled in Palestine, grew up to be Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.


Rabbi Lau, who recounted his childhood exchange with Rabbi Schacter in a memoir, published in English in 2011 as “Out of the Depths,” was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003 and is now the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.


On Friday, when Rabbi Lau told Mr. Obama of his rescue by Rabbi Schacter – he thanked the American people for delivering Buchenwald survivors “not from slavery to freedom, but from death to life” – he had not yet learned of Rabbi Schacter’s death the day before.


“For me, he was alive,” Rabbi Lau said in an interview with The Times on Monday. “I speak about him with tears in my eyes.”
Correction: March 26, 2013, Tuesday


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A photo caption with an earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of Rabbi Herschel Schacter as Hershel.


Aharon HaCohen’s life long work was to show love toward his fellow Jew. He was known as one who made SHALOM. He was a man of peace and therefore died in peace. His death was considered a MITA NESHIKA-a kiss of death. For the most part, every person from the beginning of creation, goes through an extreme amount of pain during the death process. The exception was Aharon. G-d showed and reciprocated His love to Aharon, as did Aharon to his fellow Jew, and therefor “kissed” him and he died in peace-SHALOM, without pain

Decisions That Impact Many

This week’s portion of the Torah we read about “If a Cohen’s (Priest’s) daughter has an adulterous affair, she defamed her father’s name, she should be put to death by burning”(21;9). We learn from Rav Henoch Leibowitz z”l who quotes the mainstream commentary Rashi, as he explains the verse above, she defamed and embarrassed her father’s honor, people would say on him ‘curse is the person who gave birth and curse is the person who raised such an individual’.


As we know, it was King David who laid the blueprints for the Bet Hamikdash (Temple). However, it was under King Solomon’s leadership that it was built. When King Solomon was married to the daughter of Pharaoh, one of his many wives, on the day of the inauguration of the long-awaited Temple, she caused him to oversleep. The entire nation was waiting for their King on this momentous occasion to lead the ceremony, not knowing that he was out of commission. Apparently, his mother, Batsheva, had a grasp on what was taking place. She had a sixth sense that mothers possess which led to her uneasy feeling. Mothers have a certain intuition about their children. (If I sneeze, my mother, who happened to be on the other side of town, will call me up and demand that I should put on my sweater.)


So Batsheva storms the King’s bedroom with the heel of her shoe in hand. She hits her son, King Solomon, scolding him ‘What are you doing? People would say I’m at fault for not raising you properly. They wouldn’t blame your father because he was a tzaddik. If you’re a rasha, they’ll blame me that I was the cause of your actions’. Perhaps we can deduce from the words of Batsheva. If the people did not believe David was a tzaddik, they would blame him for Solomon’s actions, even though David had been dead many years before the inauguration took place. Regardless, apparently the people would say that David did not give Solomon the proper education and this is the cause of his misstep. But the fact that David was a tzaddik, the blame would fall on his mother. The Gemarah deduces from what happens next during the inauguration ceremony; that whatever wrong King David did, G-d forgave him. This is evident from the mysteriously locked Temple doors, which would not open. Every effort was made by Shlomo and the sages to open the Temple, but it was to no avail, until Shlomo cried out to G-d ‘do it for the sake of my father, King David.’ With this cry, the doors opened.


Rav Leibowitz asks, why would anybody blame David or Batsheva for their son’s wrongdoings? At what point does an individual take responsibility for his own actions? Don’t you think at this stage of his life, he can make his own decisions? After all, he runs a kingdom; the Israelites at this juncture were considered a super power. We have to say this is human nature. People always link an individual’s negative and positive attributes to one’s parents. Even though one can argue that Shlomo didn’t do anything maliciously, David and Batsheva still would have felt slighted by their son’s actions, which would have been magnified in peoples’ eyes and would cause them embarrassment.


I know of an individual who was seeing a girl whom he was interested in marrying. Apparently, as the relationship got closer to the very serious state, it was disclosed that she had a relationship with a non-Jew. This was an issue; considering this person was a Cohen who cannot marry anyone who had such a relationship, he ended the relationship rationalizing, what would my ancestors say ‘you broke the family chain of Cohanim that goes back three thousand years because you’re in love’. This individual took tremendous pride of his Cohen status and of his family tradition. Today, he is performing his Cohen duties in synagogue along with his sons right by him.


Rav Leibowitz points out that Batsheva was more concerned in adding a sense of responsibility to Shlomo, than to her own personal pride. If one feels he is alone in sinning, he should think again. Many of his ancestors will be affected.


We conclude that any of our wrongdoings could be a violation of ‘honoring your father and your mother’ because it causes people to look negatively at our parents. Perhaps, if we are tempted to violate any laws, we should think twice because our parents’ honor is at stake.

Parshat Emor


First Portion: * I have many close friends who are kohanim. These friends, as well as the rest, must observe laws of holiness beyond those which apply to the rest of our beloved nation. They have higher standards  because they, at one point, performed G-d’s holy work in the temple. Although many of those tasks are not applicable today, the kohanim still abide by the stringent laws of their ancestors. Astonishingly, I find even the most secular kohanim observe many of these stringent laws. They all know they can’t go to a cemetery or be in the same room with someone who is deceased. Although a Kohen must defile himself for his nearest relative that have unfortunately perished, which is one of seven – wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or un-married sister, he is also obligated to defile himself for a met-mitzvah (a corpse found in a deserted spot where there is no one else within calling distance who can perform the burial. He must then bury the dead body).


* The Torah forbids a Kohen from marrying any of the following women. Chalala – the daughter of a Kohen, born of a union which was forbidden to him. For example, a girl born from a marriage between a Kohen and a prostitute or a divorcee. Zonah – a woman who had forbidden relations (for example, a non-Jew), and geyoret – a convert. He may only marry a girl who is Jewish by birth. Lastly, he may not marry a gerusha – a divorced woman.
Why did the Torah impose these limitations upon a Kohen in his choice of a wife? A man’s thoughts are influenced by his wife and to a great part directed toward her. The purity of a Kohen ranks above the rest; therefore, the Torah wants him to marry a type of woman whose background and past are without a blemish to ensure that he is not disturbed with thoughts of her background, and therefore able to perform his holy task.
* A Kohen still commands respect among his Jewish brethren. He is the first to be called to the Torah; according to Sephardic tradition, he blesses the people daily at the shacharit services. Ashkenazi origin – Jews bless the people three times a year. A Kohen is also given honor to lead the grace after meal. A new father takes his newborn son to the Kohen after 30 days to be redeemed (pidyon haben).

Second Portion: * A Kohen with a physical defect did not perform the service. He was not even permitted to enter the haichal (holy section of the temple). A physical defect includes both a birth defect, for example, blindness (even in one eye) and a temporary one, for example, injury. The Kohen resumes his Avoda – task – only when he is healed. Our sages list 140 blemishes which disqualify a Kohen from performing his duty.


Third Portion: * An animal must fulfill several requirements to be suitable as a sacrifice. It must be physically perfect. Also, an animal is acceptable only from the eighth day after birth and on. Why may it not be offered earlier? A newborn creature is small and not yet well-developed for the first seven days. It is still difficult to discern whether or not it has some minor defects. After the eighth day, it is sufficiently developed whether or not it is blemished.


Fourth Portion: * In this section, we find the wording of the special holiday Kiddush; the Kiddush starts elleh moadai. The Torah discusses two festive times – moadai Hashem. G-d gave the Bet-din (the Jewish court) the authority to proclaim when holidays should be, through determining when the new moon begins. If one thinks of the magnitude of authority that G-d has given the bet din, which is the ability to proclaim the holidays, they would come to the conclusion that it’s mind-boggling. It seems like there is a tremendous degree of confidence G-d has upon our Jewish courts. So the festivities are man-appointed. The other festivity which is discussed, is from G-d – “Shabbat” – which has more stringent laws attached to it and the punishment for discretion is more severe. However, we might assume that Yom-Tov (holidays) can be taken lightly since its sanctity was put into effect by man. The Torah juxtaposed the two to teach us they are equally forbidden. In fact, to show how important holidays are, if one notices, if a holiday falls on a Shabbat, we do not recite the usual Shabbat prayer. Even though there is a law “always recite the more frequent prayer”, we say a festive prayer instead with a Shabbat reference.
* The holiday of Pesach and the counting of the Omer are discussed.


Fifth Portion: * In this section, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are discussed.


Sixth Portion: * Here, the Torah speaks about the holiday of Sukkot and the four species that one assembles together (lulav, etrog, hadas, and arravot) and makes a blessing.


Seventh Portion: * There was a man who was a trouble maker, whose mother was Jewish and father was Egyptian. He ridiculed Moshe about the lechem hapanim – the special bread in the temple that miraculously stayed fresh and warm after a week, saying “Na, it’s probably stale. Is it proper to serve such bread in the Kings palace?” One day, he decided to pitch his tent in his mother’s territorial tribe, Dan. However, because of his father’s non-Jewish status, the Jewish court rejected the advances by him to claim territorial rights in Dan. Inheritance goes after the father, not the mother. Out of anger, he cursed G-d. The incident was an unprecedented first. G-d instructed Moshe that this individual’s punishment should be death.

Emerging Again from the Cave a Second Time

          Growing up in Queens, I felt that many of my friends did not receive a positive and proper Jewish education. If I can pinpoint one incident that effected me the most and sparked my pursuit of teaching, it would be when a relative/friend (I know he’s reading this) raised his hand in the middle of a Chumash (Jewish studies) lecture and asked the Rabbi “how do we know G-d exists”. The question floored me. I had never seen my relative show any interest in theological matters. It was a very sincere question.
          However, the Rabbi was not well prepared and in fact ignored the question, making my cousin feel uncomfortable. My cousin’s interest quickly withered away.
          We are celebrating Lag Ba’Omer this coming week and there are many valuable lessons to learn, but first let’s provide some background with regard to this famous event.
          Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a student of Rabbi Akiva, the spiritual leader of the Bar Kochva Revolt against Rome in 135 CE. As a student of the spiritual leader of the revolt, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was pursued relentlessly by the Romans. He and his son, Rabbi Elazar, took refuge in a cave, where they remained for thirteen years. During those years, Rabbi Shimon studied Torah with his son, the Revealed Torah as well as the Hidden/Secret Torah, the “Torat HaSod,” also known as Kabbalah. Rabbi Shimon wrote down the latter material for the first time in a book called the “Zohar,” meaning “Splendor” or “Radiance”. The first time Rabbi Shimon came out of the cave, he was completely “out of tune” with the people of his generation. He observed Jews farming the land, and engaged in other normal pursuits, and made known his disapproval. “How can people engage themselves in matters of this world and neglect matters of the next world?”, he wondered. In response, a Heavenly Voice was heard saying “Bar Yochai, go back to the cave! You are no longer fit for the company of other human beings”. Rabbi Shimon went back to the cave, reoriented his perspective to some extent, and emerged again. This time, he was able to interact with the people of his generation and become a great teacher of Torah, the Revealed and the Hidden.
          An educator today has to have the ability to interact with people. The Rabbi could have been the biggest egg head in his class and passed his Rabbinical tests with flying colors, however, if he can’t give over the material, it’s worthless. He has to give over the material in such a way that the student will open up and be receptive. He has to give the children a warm and comfortable feeling about Torah. That feeling will remain with them well into adulthood.
          This week, I’m honored that my son’s former Pre1- A Rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Frummel, is being presented the Educator of The Year award for his work at Yeshiva Ketana of Queens. It is truly an honor well deserved. I closely observed my son as he warmed up to Rabbi Frummel that year. I think back fondly at some of those Rabbis, just like him, who gave over the Torah the way it should be presented. I’m glad I had those educators and also those who are educating  my son.
I’m saddened that many did not have that positive experience. I only wish those people will give our Torah another chance!!

The Importance of Nissan 1


As we know, the inauguration of the MISHKAN-Tabernacle was on the first of Nissan, however it was completed on the 25th of Kislev. That’s a good number of months (three and a half) before Nissan. Why was the inauguration delayed so long? If the Tabernacle was so important, why didn’t they open it up for business immediately?


To answer this, we must understand that the concept of the Mishkan is giving of yourself for G-d. The one person who personified that the most was none other than our forefather, Yitzchak. He agreed and allowed his father to tie him up so that he shall be sacrificed to G-d. This was the greatest moment, in terms of belief in G-d, in Jewish history. That day was Yitzchak’s birthday. That day was the 1st day of Nissan. This the reason we waited. The day represents 100% belief in G-d. On that day, the Jews sacrificed the sacred animals that the Egyptians deemed to be their god. Doing so infuriated the Egyptians. However, G-d said “don’t be afraid, believe in Me”. “I said no danger will come upon you as long as you do what I say”. The Israelites did as G-d said. This is a day of tremendous reliance and belief in G-d. This is the reason Nissan is called the months of all months.