Archive for December 2014

I want the bracha first!!!

I want the bracha first!!! 

This article was constructed with the help of Dr. Robert Goldman, Psychologist of Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim and Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Eliezer Finkleman, Yitzchak Aminov


Who doesn’t want to receive a bracha from their beloved father or grandfather? It’s a big honor. One gets a feeling of warmth and an awareness that the bracha has been passed down for many generations, for thousands of years. It’s beautiful!!


Interestingly, though, what happens when the beloved patriarch wants to give a more important bracha to your younger sibling? How would you feel? Would you feel slighted?  Does one still have that warm feeling?


We have an ancient tradition, and many would say, one of the most beautiful customs in Jewish life is for parents to bless their children at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. What makes it more important is it’s done at Shabbat table which is designed to be the grand stage for family communication and family love, especially in todays fast pace lifestyle where one doesn’t communicate with his family all week.  Girls receive the blessing: “May God make you like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.” Boys, meanwhile, are blessed “to be like Ephraim and Menashe.”
What happened to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?! Why were Ephraim and Menashe chosen instead as the subjects of this important tradition?

In this week’s parsha, the last in the book of Sefer Bereshit, we see a very interesting pattern, the rejection of the first-born. When Yosef brought his two sons for a blessing from Yaacov, his father, who was old and ready to pass on, he did something very peculiar. Yaacov crossed his arms so that Efraim, who was the youngest, would be under his right hand and Menashe, who was older and purposely placed by Yosef at his grandfather’s right, got the left. Yaacov, who emphasized that Menashe also received a nice bracha, gave the more important blessing to Efraim.

We see through history that the first born, the well-respected elder, receives double the inheritance, losing, on many occasions, the status in which he inherited. This was apparent in the first generation of the world; Cain was the oldest; however Hevel got the reward. We know that Shem, (where our ancestors come from) one of three sons of Noach, was not the first-born. Abraham passed the baton to Isaac, the youngest, and not to Yishmael. The same is said about Isaac’s sons, Eisav, who was the bechor, but Yaacov was the brother chosen. Reuben, the eldest of the twelve tribes, neither got the first-born rights, the kingdom nor the kehuna (high priest).


First and foremost, the Torah is trying to emphasize that even though the first-born has changed the status of man and has made him a father of this precise bechor, nevertheless, the bechor has to earn the benefits that has been bestowed upon him. There’s no freebee; no job is safe. Apparently, it’s a demanding role and has to be maintained to the highest standard, or else he loses it.


There is a puzzling question: Okay, we learn “one has to earn his brownie points and nothing is a freebee” from the tragic story of Cain and Hevel, but the Torah keeps on harping the same pattern over and over. Why? We learned the lesson. Perhaps one didn’t get it the first time, so the Torah wants to accommodate those slow thinkers and present similar storyline; possibility?


Ephraim and Menashe represent a break from this pattern. This explains why Yaacov purposely switched his hands, blessing the younger Ephraim before the older Menashe:  there was no

 resentment from Menashe. He was ok with it!!  There was no jealousy; he did  n’t feel slighted. This was a tremendous revelation. Yaacov wished to emphasize the point that with these siblings, there is no rivalry. For this reason Menashe and Efraim both received their own tribe. They were the only grandchildren to receive this recognition. It was a tremendous act of respect on Yaacov’s part to give them such honor. He knew what refined character they both had.



The book of Bereshit concludes with the positive unity of Menashe and Ephraim as one of its lead story. After all the sibling rivalry which we encountered, mankind finally got it right. For this reason, the Torah goes out of its way in the beginning of the second book of Shemot, to relay a conversation between G-d and Moshe pertaining Moshe’s appointment  as leader of the Israelites. Moshe was concerned that his older brother will be slighted. He was afraid he would be humiliated. After all, he was the leader of the nation until that point. Although Aharon did nothing wrong as leader, it was evident, one didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize Moshe was born with unusual gifts and was destined to be the redeemer.  We see Aharon’s greatness was to recognize Moshe’s ability and to realize he would be best for the nation of Israel. Aharon was happy to step down. It was totally a selfless and courageous act.

One has to realize that it’s not so simple to overcome such a test. In fact, it’s one of the CHULSHAT ENOSH human weaknesses. There are a number of very interesting stories in our history pertaining to this test.


The great HILLEL came to Israel from Babylonia. His activity of forty years likely covered the period of 30 BC to 10 AD. As soon as he came, everyone realized how great he was. He answered all the questions that was presented to him and knew all the Jewish discourses that was presented to him cold. It seemed like Shmaya and Avtalyon, the leading Rabbis, also realized that he was far greater than they. In response to his presence they resigned their position as leading Rabbis, relinquishing the mantle of leadership to him. A generation later the famous Rabbi Yehuda the NASI-prince, the leader of the Jews of his generation and the author of the Mishna said it would be most difficult, for me, to give up the position of president. I would not be able to relinquish the honor. Kol Hakavod to Shmaya  and Avtalyon for placing the welfare of the Jewish people in front of their life time achievements, goals and pride.


 Being the leading Rabbi has always been in the forefront throughout our history. In every corner of the world the head Rabbi was traditionally always recognized as the authority. It commands tremendous respect but with it he takes upon himself tremendous responsibility.

  In the 1700’s, there was a large Jewish community in Prague headed by Rabbi Yechezkel Laundau. The position of head Rabbi was traditionally chosen by vote. Rabbi Laundau narrowly beat out Rabbi Zorach, who was also tremendous Torah scholar. Rabbi Zorach was not satisfied. He felt he would be the better choice in serving the community. On the first Shabbat of Rabbi Laudau’s new position, Rabbi Zorach asked him a question in front of the congregation that he could not answer. It was clearly an embarrassing moment right at the start of his tenure. He came home and cried himself to sleep. His father, who had passed away some time ago, came to him in a dream where Rabbi Laundau disclosed to him his anguish over the question asked by Rav Zorach. His father said “Son you will find the answer of the question in the Tosfot in this particular tractate of the Talmud,” disclosing the page. The next morning sure enough the answer was there. He then showed it to Rav Zorach who himself was not aware of the Tosfot answer. He then asked him “how did you figure out the answer?” When he found out about his father coming to him from the next world to give him the answer and save face in front of the congregation, he rationalized if the other world is interfering with matters of this world and providing answers so Rav Laundau can keep his position then perhaps this is what the heavens want; this is what is suppose to be. He then gave up the quest to overthrow Rabbi Laundau and eventually became a staunch supporter of him.


Rav Zorach could have rationalized the situation differently. We tend to look at everything to our favor. If man develops a liking to a certain view, he can make a straight line look crooked.


It’s too simplistic to blame the individual alone for being selfish. It’s a lot more complex. One has many pressures. On occasion, the wife and other family members get involved, egging the person not to give up. Perhaps they would feel slighted by the individual not being chosen. One, at times, succumbs to pressure.  What starts out as a sincere project often ends up as an egotistical struggle; it’s scary, however, we tend to be drawn in to this natural human nature deficiency.


 One of the most sensitive person that I have ever met, who worked and stressed good character traits was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim Rav Henoch Liebowitz t’zl.

At his Eulogy, one of the eulogizers said something mind boggling. He quoted Rav Henoch saying that “the toughest decision that I ever made was to pass over the position of Rosh Yesiva to his own chosen heir apparent.”


Here is a man well into his eighties knowing well he cannot function as the head Rabbi because of health issues, has difficulty giving up the mantle.

It’s not so easy!!


We now can appreciate and acknowledge that Menashe was a remarkable human being and the same can be said of Aharon.  

Relationship between parents and children

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Yissachar Frand , Yossi Bilus,  Yitzchak Aminov and Dr. Abba Goldman



There are two powerful questions that must be addressed to kick off this article. We all know, or should know, the first. It’s probably the most asked about question pertaining to one of the most famous memorable lines in the Torah. As a matter of fact: when one defines a “dramatic pause” in the Webster’s Dictionary this is it! It’s as dramatic as you can get. However, before we begin, let’s first start with a little background:



Yosef has become the second in command of the most powerful nation in the world, Egypt. The world is in the midst of a famine and Egypt is the epics-center to purchase food. Egypt has been placed in a very good position of “provider” thanks to Yosef, whose advice, through interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, was dead on target.

As a matter of fact, even Yosef’s brothers traveled to Egypt to purchase food due to the desperate state they were facing.

The brothers, out of jealousy, sold Yosef into slavery against his will, obviously, and have not seen him for twenty two years. As they’re introduced to their long lost brother, the Viceroy, the high in command, who is in charge of distributing food, whom they didn’t recognize, Yosef acts cold to them. They haven’t a clue that it’s him.  As the story develops Yosef congers up a plan placing their youngest brother, Benyamin, in which Yosef shared the same mother, Rachel, and was very close to, in jail. Yosef orchestrated the alleged theft framing his younger brother in order to test the brothers’ loyalty towards Benyamin, hoping they’ve learned their lesson.



1) After Yosef’s dialogue with his brothers reached its climax, he finally breaks down and says “I am Yosef — Is my father still alive?” [Bereshit 45:3] All the commentaries ask an obvious question: the entire dialogue between Yosef and his brothers was centered on their father. Yaakov had been the constant focus of Yosef’s questions and the brothers’ responses. So why does Yosef ask again if his father is still alive?

2) Once one examines the back and forth tense talk, between Yosef and Yehuda they’ll realize something odd on Yehuda’s defensive attack, the leader of the brothers and personal guarantor that Benyamin will return unscathed back to his father.

As Yehudah is making his impassioned plea to the Viceroy in Egypt (who he did not yet realize was his brother Yosef) to release Binyamin, he made the argument — “How can you not let him go? If his father finds out that he did not return, he will not be able to survive!” The Chiddushei HaRim points out that at that time, Binyamin had 10 children. Why did Yehudah not use the argument — how can you not let Binyamin go, you will leave 10 orphans!! They will not be able to survive without their father?


Rabbi Yissachar Frand brings out an unfortunate problem in today’s society.   Many of us can be seduced by the mighty Dollar. As a result some of our children do not receive the love which they need. One may ask. What does making money have to do with loving your children? Their parents are too busy making money by working 12, 14, or 16 hours a day to have time for their children. The parents are using the “land of opportunity” to the maximum at the expense of alienating their children. My mother, an immigrant of this country, would always say their family of five was much happier living in a two room apartment than today’s America where the privileged, each child has a separate wing with their own private bathrooms, but minimum contact with parents. Where is the love? Giving individual attention to each child is vital in their growth. We often hear this from parents when children go in the wrong path. “I don’t understand I provided him with everything”. Yeah, everything but attention!

Rabbi Frand brings an interesting true story, which explains Yosef’s question.

There was once a student whose father had deserted his family. This sort of student often causes a lot of problems for a teacher. He was totally “turned off” to everything. The teacher tried to become close to the child. He invited the child over to his house. Nothing helped. The child just sat there in class and did not participate.

As is unfortunately the case with teachers sometimes, the teacher was prepared to write this child off. “Put him in the back of the class; let him just sit there. Hopefully he will absorb some of what is being taught. I gave it my best shot; there is nothing more I can do.” And so that is what the teacher did.

For about half a year, the child just sat and ‘vegetated’. Finally, the class started Parshat VaYigash. They learned the dialogue between Yosef and the brothers. Then they learned the verse “I am Yosef — is my father still alive?” The Rebbe asked our question to the students — what does Yosef mean by this question?

This child from the back of the classroom, the one who had not participated for half the year, raised his hand and gave this incredibly poignant interpretation: “Yosef is saying, ‘I know that YOUR father is still alive, but is MY father still alive? Has my father given up on me? I have been away from home; I have been in a strange land for 22 years; is MY father still alive? Do I still have a father who cares about ME?'”

That child was not only asking Yosef’s question. He was asking his own question. Sometimes we have children who in different ways and in different forms are asking “Is my father still alive?” “Does my father still care about me?”

Children are very sensitive; they want to be loved by their parents to the highest degree. They are dependent on their mother and father. I would like to share an astonishing feeling I had when my father past away. When he left this world I felt abandoned. Surprisingly, I was forty one and leading my own family!! Even though, I was taking care of him the last ten years of his life I still felt he was taking care of me. My feelings of abandonment, is shared by many.

 We see how super-sensitive one is at forty one; can one imagine a child, a teen?

Rabbi Yossi Bilus brings a story where a friend of the family asked three brothers what was their best part of the trip to Israel. Interestingly, each one had a different answer, even though they are similar in age. One brother said “a trip to the Western Wall”; one said “a trip to Kever Rachel” and the last, sheepishly said “a trip to the mall”.

After carefully examining each trip, the friend of the family discovered on each occasion where the sons had the best time, seemingly the father happened to take each individually on that particular outing and had their own “father and son” time alone. They each received their undivided attention from their father. That is what made it a special moment.

Many children emulate their parents, whether it is at the present time or at a latter age. Perhaps, this is the best sign of endearment; perhaps, this is the optimal sign of respect. Perhaps, this is the highest sign of love.

However there is a major contradiction to what is said above. The Shalo”h Hakodesh writes a concept (which is also found in secular circles): One parent can take care of ten children but ten children cannot take care of one parent. The Chiddushei HaRim finds a source for this idea in this week’s parsha. When Yehudah made his impassioned plea to the Viceroy in Egypt (who he did not yet realize was his brother Yosef) to release Binyamin, he made the argument — “How can you not let him go? If his father finds out that he did not return, he will not be able to survive!” The Chiddushei HaRim points out that at that time, Binyamin had 10 children. Why did Yehudah not use the argument — how can you not let Binyamin go, you will leave 10 orphans!!!  They will not be able to survive without their father? Apparently, says Chiddushei HaRim, 10 children can somehow manage without a father, but a father cannot manage without one of 10 remaining sons.

This concept that a father’s attachment to his children is stronger than the children’s attachment to their father is the source for the Shaloh’s comment and for the similar concept that circulates in the world at large.

Our children love us and respect us, etc., but it is not the same as our love for them. Rabbi Frand once saw a very interesting explanation for this phenomenon. Every single human emotion that exists is something we received from Adam, the first human being. Adam had children and therefore he had in him the emotion of a parent’s love for his children. However, Adam did not have a father. He is the only person in the history of the world who did not have parents. Consequently, the emotion of love of child for parent was something he did not possess. It was an acquired skill developed in later generations, but it never had the strong genetically passed down roots that existed in the emotion of love towards children, which is innate in our personalities.

For this reason, Yehudah recognized that the stronger argument for the release of Binyamin would be “his father can’t survive his loss” rather than “his children will not be able to survive his loss.”

 Dr. Abba Goldman – psychologist from Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim adds, although Yaacov received reassurance from G-d that the genealogy of Yaacov will continue and not assimilate what was a strong incentive to go down to Egypt was reuniting with Yosef. This is the main reason Yaacov was lured to Egypt. Yaacov needed to see his beloved son.

The good Doctor continues; “It’s a natural instinct that kids gravitate towards independence.  Unfortunately, as they build their own lives, the role of dependency tend to reverse. Dr. Goldman says the commandment “Honoring your father and your mother” is not so simple. Many have a misconception about this commandment; it’s the least understood; they think – it primary pertains to children. On the contrary, dealing with old and cranky parents is the big test of “honoring”. However, one must prioritize and not let their “Honoring” impinge, to a large extent, on their relationship with their spouse and children”.

The question is who loves whom more: the parents or the children.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler writes in Michtav Eliyahu – it’s obviously the parents. The parents have given to the children most of their lives and there is a concept “the more you give – the more you love”. Even though there might be a degree of dependency at an old age, however, the parents, by and large have been the caretakers since the inception.

It’s very hard to fulfill the commandment of honoring one’s parents, especially when they’re old and cranky. Especially, when one has the pressure of raising young children, a demanding wife and bills mounting endlessly. Many of us take pride in honoring parents; however, on occasion our patience is tested.

Once, a son took his frustrations to an extreme.

 After his mother’s passing, the son moved the father in with him. He, Baruch Hashem, had a growing family. The father had some medical issues, but the son with the right care took care of it. But juggling family, work and an elderly father, who seemed like was blessed with longevity, became too challenging over the years. The loyal son became very impatient. Medical insurance was not covering all of the old man’s expenses. No matter how prosperous and modern thinking this country can be, it seems like it’s not prepared for the elderly. The son found himself behind the eight ball, in debt.

Pressure makes a person think irrationally. He decided to take some time off. As a child, the father would always take him camping. The stressed out son decided to take his father for a ride to the mountains. Rest and relaxation is therapeutic sometimes. The road was extremely and dangerously narrow and he had to drive carefully. As he was reaching his destination, an impulsive, horrifying idea surfaced.  The son thought, “here is my opportunity” as they were camped at the edge of the mountain. Still he decided to see his father’s face one last time before he commits his act of desperation. He was taken aback seeing his father with a smile. Knowing that his father was a very smart man, he curiously asked, “Pop, why are you smiling?” The father answered back, “I did the same thing to my father”.

The son felt a cold chill as he realized that how one treats one’s parent is how he will be treated. Quickly, he took he father out of danger.

The relationship between parents and children is a very important one. One often mimics their exchanges that they experienced with parents with their own kids therefore it’s very important that one gets it right the first time or we can  see a repeat flaw for generations.

The Ten Commandments and the concept of goodness

This article was comprised using thoughts from Rabbi’s  Yitzchak Aminov, Akiva Tats, Aharon Goldring, Yossi Biluss, Baruch Dopelt and the wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet


An event of significant measure to our Jewish nation occurred in this week’s parsha. We got the Torah!!!

The giving of the Torah was done with a tremendous and spectacular public display, with thunder and lightning and all the trimmings that has left  an imprint on generations till this very day.  The Ten Commandments were front and center in the coronation of our receiving the Torah. The whole world stood still as it was recited first by G-d then Moshe.

Interestingly if one goes through the passages of the Ten Commandments one will realize something puzzling. All the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are  present except for the letter  “Tet”   ט . Furthermore in the second version of the Ten Commandments which is found in Devarim (5:6-18) the letter   “Tet” ט,  does appear, “ULEHMA’AN YITAV LACH-and it will be good to you”. Why in this version does the  “Tet” ט  appear and in our parsha it does not?

In order to understand why the  “Tet” ט is missing in the first Ten commandments we have to understand  some basic concepts of letters and words in our Torah.  The Hebrew letters are the building blocks, the foundation of the world. One can understand the essence of a person through his name, which consists of a combination of letters from the alef bet.  We can know many personality traits about an individual through his identity at the brit or, for a girl, at the Aliya’LaTorah reading. Furthermore there is a tradition if someone is very sick an additional name is added.

Every Hebrew name has a mission in life; apparently the individual who is sick has exhausted his mission. Therefore a new name is added to give another purpose, another task to accomplish and perhaps extend his life.  It’s also vital that one has a Hebrew name.

Although it seems like it’s after the fact; we discovered through the secret codes of the Torah, combining different sequences of letters point to significant events in our history. Apparently the Hebrew letters are a powerful tool. One should even try to pray in Lashon Hakodesh-the holy language and pronounce the Hebrew letters.

When the first letter of its kind appears for the very first time in the Torah, the word that it’s associated with is the essence of the letter. So when the first time Tet” ט, appears it is in the word TOV-good (Bereshit 1:4) This shows the letter  Tet” ט, is a general symbol for goodness.

The Sages explain: We know the first Tablets were smashed by Moshe as a result of  the nation sinning with the golden calf. Had the Tablets contained the word TOV, the world would have feared that the smashing of   the LUCHOT-Tablets signified that all TOV-goodness on earth had come to an end. In order to spare mankind the anxiety, G-d omitted the ט     (Baba Kama 55a).  The second Tablets, though, were not smashed and were not brought down in the midst of negative energy and therefore they contained the word Tov.

We learn that each letter came to G-d and asked that they should be the letter representing the Torah.  G-d said to the letter TET, when it approached him with the request, ” There is no need for you to have the initial letter of my holy scripture, because  your essence, goodness, is hidden”.  Where is it hidden?

We mentioned before, the first time we find the word Tov in the Torah it’s referring to  the light, “VAHYA’AR KITOV-and he saw it was good”.  G-d created light on the first day. Later on, the scripture again mentions that He created light on the fourth day. Didn’t G-d create light already? Did G-d create 2 lights?  Yes. The Sages explain that the “first day light” was a magnificent spiritual light that was taken away and hidden.

Later on the word TOV appears again.  The Torah attributes the virtue of TOV-good to the new born Moshe….As we read “VAYAR OTO KITOV WHO-when she (Moshe’s mother) saw that he was good” she hid him three months (Shemot 2:2)) The word TOV is crowned with five crowns in the Torah, symbolizing that the infant Moshe was destined to transmit the 5  holy books, a body of work full of hidden goodness and light, the first light, to Israel.

Why was the TET brought down in the second version in the fifth Commandment, which happens to be ” Respect you Father and your Mother”?

One should know and realize by looking at the tablets in which the Ten Commandments are placed on (found in every synagogue in the world), that one half represents man’s relationship with G-d while the other half represents man’s relationship with his fellow man. If one examines it closely however, one will notice “honoring your father and your mother” is placed in the wrong column; on the side that represents man’s relationship with G-d. Clearly, as far as I’m concerned, parents are humans and they belong on the other side of the tablets. Perhaps the designer thought it would look awkward having six and four placed on the Aron Kodesh (place where you keep the Torahs). Five and five look much better and even; it gives more presence to the Synagogue, especially the well-to-do ones. We learn an important lesson about parents. It’s the obligation and responsibility of the Father and Mother to transmit the Torah to the children. The parents are the trusted chain that G-d empowers to transmit the hidden goodness . For this reason they’re in the same column.

Also, there is an interesting insight by the commentary the Ba’al HaTurim on the difference of the first set of Ten Commandments and the second. However a brief introduction of Gematria has to be presented:

Gematria (Hebrew: גימטריא/גימטריה gēmaṭriyā) is a Jewish system of numerology that assigns a numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person’s age, the calendar year, or the like. The best-known example of Gematria is the Hebrew word Chai (“alive”), which is composed of two letters which  add up to 18. This has made 18 a “lucky number” among Jews, and gifts in multiples of 18 are very common.[1]

The second Tablets contain seventeen words more then the first. The gematria of TOV is seventeen, indicating that the second Tablets relieved man’s fear that goodness has disappeared.

Intellect vs Emotions

This article was comprised using thoughts from  Chidushay Halev by Rav Henoch Liebowitz z’l

 On the morning of Rosh Hashanah, Rivka [Rebecca] went into the bedroom to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready to go to the synagogue [Shul], to which he replied in a dull voice, “I’m not going.”
“Why not?” Rivka demanded. “I’ll give you two good reasons, Mother.” he said. “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them.”  Rivka replied in an exasperated voice, “I’ll give you two good reasons why you must go to the synagogue. One, you’re 54 years old, and two, you’re the Rabbi.”
Rabbi’s are people too.  No one is immune; they  also can get sucked in to the emotions of their job.
If one knows a little American history. Henry Kissinger was the  Secretary of State back in the 1970’s under President Richard Nixon. He was considered by many as a very smart man. There was a popular joke about emotions and intellect involving the smartest man of his time:
Three people were on an airplane: Henry Kissinger, a boy scout, and a Rabbi. They will find out that the plane is in distress and will crash shortly. There are only two parachutes!! Henry Kissinger grabs a parachute and jumps out of the plane. So, the Rabbi goes to the boy scout ‘take the parachute. Son, I’m a lot older than you. You have a long life ahead of you. Please take the parachute. The boy laughs ‘Don’t worry, Rabbi. There are two left .The smartest man in the world just took my knapsack.’

           When situations are such that one is forced to make a decision with great deal of emotions involved, in this case facing life and death on the airplane, a greater amount mistakes will occur. The intellect has to have greater control over the emotions to have a good functional system.
           Desire is another emotion that can be devastating, even when one has time on his side; it’s a slow kill. If the desire is strong enough, then chances are it’s not governed by intellect. One may think he’s rational but it’s the emotion that stems from the desire that’s talking. What’s that expression? Don’t confuse me with the facts, I made my decision.
Rashi said Pharaoh refused to be humbled before G-d (Shemot 10:3). When the Egyptians began to enslave the Jews, Pharaoh rationalized that we can really use them and gain from their productivity. However, G-d had other plans and Pharaoh realized himself it wasn’t beneficial to enslave them. His advisers warned him also Egypt will be lost if the enslavement of the Jews continues. Their powerful G-d will destroy us. Pharaoh who was considered very smart knew that these plagues will destroy his kingdom. Yet his ego didn’t allow him to let them go.
But how does one understand Pharaohs behavior? Apparently, it should be the opposite. If Pharaoh was so concerned about his Honor and protect his ego, he would have let the Jews out the first chance he had knowing he’s going to lose his status and wealth. There’s no comparison; it’s a no-brainer. What’s at stake? Pharaoh can lower his head and let them go and still maintain his kingdom and perhaps a good chance of being considered a superpower. Or he would hold firm and continue to enslave the Israelites and inevitably his army would be destroyed and Egypt will never ever gain the glorified position it holds and Pharaoh would be labeled a fool by the world. Let’s not overlook that he sinned in front of G-d and will be accounted for it after his life is over.
             Why did he make such a decision? Isn’t it mind boggling?
              Pharaohs inflated ego was making the decisions. This desire, which stems from the heart, overrides the intellect. No matter how logical and factual the emotions block out the intellect where even the smartest man in the world will not make a rational decision. Even if his advisors are begging him to let them go and the plague are causing devastation, Pharaoh will feel confident that it’s the right choice. It’s a scary thought, how many decisions people make based on desire; desire for honor and women.
              People don’t realize that desire is an emotion because one can be seen as acting normal, however it influences us. When the desire is alleviated even briefly, one can realize the wrong decisions he has made and the time he wasted. The frightening aspect about desire even a most influential friend with sound advice may not be able to get through because his message will be blocked.

The Mystique About Tefillin

Tefillin” taken from the writings of R’ Aryeh Kaplan

In the memorable inception of becoming a man, I spent time alone in the early morning at my grandparents’ house in Israel, trying on my new pair of Tefillin. Our family visited Israel; my parents thought it would be a great idea for me, the bar mitzvah boy, to put Tefillin on for the first time at the Kotel (Wailing Wall). The Kli Yakar mentions that the Western Wall is where the forming of the souls originates. Perhaps that is why when one visits the Kotel, they feel a burst of spirituality. For this reason, it might be a ‘get off on the right foot’ the first mitzvah that a bar mitzvah boy does would be super.
Even though I’ve been to Israel many times before, it was still a culture shock; perhaps this is why Israelis would label us ‘pampered Americans’. My grandparents lived in an industrial part of Tel Aviv where mini – and I mean “mini” factories   would start drilling very early in the morning, which would thump me out of bed, uncharacteristically early. Every place in a person’s life has a certain flavor, scent, look, taste and feel. My grandparents’ neighborhood in Florentine, Tel Aviv will live in my memory bank for a long time with its uniqueness.
The scent of the brand new leather Tefillin straps smelled great although the head Tefillin was a bit large. I was waiting for Pop to come and adjust it. As instructed by my father earlier, the passage that is found in this week’s Parsha, Kadesh lee kol bechor, should be emphasized. Every morning when I say that passage, it reminds me of that morning where the first exploration took place.

For many years before, I would observe my father and upper grade boys in school put theirs on and my classmates and I would beg them for an opportunity to wrap their tefillin. I remember when I got my tefillin and smelled the scent of the new black leather straps and feeling of ‘hey I’m a grown up’, was nice. Although it’s been awhile since I bought a new car, the black exterior is preferred, popular and expensive, but why a black collar for tefillin? Why the leather and square box? Why the puny animal hairs that stick out from the box? One has probably asked himself over the years a pretty basic question; why does one need this strange contraption to get close to G-d? Perhaps, I would think it is better suited to meditate or give a good cry.In order to answer these questions, one has to understand the Torah concept of closeness. Spiritual closeness, which is very different than physical, is obtained by having resemblances. For example, one can be on the other side of the world and still maintain a strong bond with his friend, a spiritual closeness, because they share the same ideology. If I like pastrami with sweet red peppers and Boaz in Israel likes pastrami with sweet red peppers, we resemble each other and in this concept are considered close. In the spiritual world, it’s impossible to bring two opposites together; therefore, good and bad people will have no contact with each other once they die. Sometimes strangers can exist with each other. It’s important to note, there is a way where spiritual things can be bound to the material. For example, good and evil urges are polar opposites; they exist together only with a material physical body, which is the common denominator; they could never be brought together otherwise.

G-d and man are also worlds apart. It’s only by binding ourselves to the same physical object that we can get close to Him. The physical tefillin we wear are the counterpart of what G-d has on. In each detail, they parallel G-d’s spiritual tefillin and because they resemble them they are spiritually very close to each other and that links us to G-d.
We are told from various accounts about near death experiences that seeing the light, which presumably is G-d, is a very exhilarating sight. The Zohar teaches that G-d chooses to be hidden because if He would be more open, there will not be freedom of choice. Man would not struggle to find answers about life; he would not have difficulty making a living. He would not need to try to fill voids in his life to be happy, trying various things to reach some satisfaction. He’s being discreet casts a spell of confusion. Therefore, man has to find ways to climb the mountain. Every day should be a learning experience. In order to achieve success in his spirituality and physicality, he has to use his creativity. This is one reason why tefillin is black, indicating that G-d’s purpose is dark and hidden. The white parchment found inside are only to be found when one penetrates this black barrier. The square is the archetype of man; it’s not a natural shape. Round is the way of the world, (hakafot on Simchat Torah, Hoshanas on Sukkoth, Chatan and Kallah dancing in a circle (separately of course.) The meaning of the square is that the ultimate goal is in man’s hand; he can change the natural occurrence of the world through creativity. He is able to take this physical animalistic world and enhance it spiritually. This is the reason everything in the tefillin is made from an animal product. Man is only perfected through his animal nature, which is through his physical body. Man’s main link with G-d is with his physical observance of his commandments.
If you look carefully at the head of the tefillin, you will find four very short hairs coming out near the base between the third and fourth sections. One of the ways we resemble G-d is the practice of free will, and one of the ingredients to have free will is the existence of evil. This evil is the hair in the tefillin, which is symbolic to the hair of a calf. The golden calf is one of archetypes of evil. This hair that is in the tefillin which man wears, ultimately connects all evil to G-d. Therefore, it is also the channel through which all evil can be brought back and be redeemed. We are not perfect and man has to go through an experience of a shameful gehenom (hell) even for a mere moment. By wearing the tefillin, he fulfills the obligations and saves him from a more stringent judgment. This explains why a particular Chassidic group stands in a street corner and urges people to put on tefillin. Therefore, it’s very important to wear tefillin every day.



The “practicality” philosophy that America preaches and believes in, has a great deal of influence on yours truly. Furthermore, being raised all my life in the Ashkenazi yeshiva school system  has instilled in me a prudent and “down to earth” way of looking at things. However, I am a Sefardic Jew, and some of us like to be adventurous seeking high falutin experiences to say the least. This kind of  contrast at times can be most difficult. However,   every so often it can have  an unpredictable and refreshing  way of observing things.  Perhaps that is the reason people read this publication. There are many different approaches  on any given topic. We are proud to say we try to accommodate all.

  There is an example of the “adventurous” vs the “practical”. How many remember reading the first volume of the Me’am Loez in English. Many loved  the psycadelic angels and demons and extra terrestrials that were incorporated throughout the book!! Others found it to be not for them.
  Lets take the topic a step further. We humans have many issues and problems that we have to deal with; that’s life. We live a high pressured life style that requires “on demand” quick and precise answers.  Many  Americans benefit by using a psychiatrist to help them through their problems while some of us Jews have Rabbi’s and Kabbalists. Oh yes, you heard right kabbalist not therapist. We  occasionally want to beat the system and come out on top and a kabbalist,  can provide us with precisely that.
 A Kabbalist, if one believes in this approach,  can help give many an angle on some of the tough decisions that one makes. Some believe they get an edge on making difficult decisions consulting with a Kabbalist/Rabbi.
  When I was in the jewelery business I once send out merchandise worth about $20,000 on the recommendation of someone to a store out in Arkansas. The trade book gave them an excellent rating. However, the owner recently retired and handed over the helm to his daughter who was not very capable, to say the least. The daughter sent back the merchandise to the wrong address uninsured!!. After refusing to pay and answer my calls I, with the recommendation of a friend from another neighboring state hired a lawyer. The law is one can only hire a lawyer from the state of which the defendant is being sued. Having a choice of 3 lawyers I asked a kabbalist, Rabbi Shienberger z’l, from the Sanza Rebbi dynasty, who would be the best choice for my case. He chose one & was right ; I retrieved most of my money.
 The question is asked; do kabbalists actually have special powers? Where do they get their powers? Is it possible they can get their energy source from a negative evil side?
There are different types of powers that kabbalists possess which they learned from the Jewish mystical traditions. Every one has a different source of power which they learned from their teacher (Rebbi) through tradition.
1-chochmat hayad- palm reading
2-chochmat hapartzuf- Knowing about an individual by looking at his face
3- combination of Hebrew names
4-koach hanefesh- Some have a gift from G-d; they are able to feel what can happen in the future. Although, at times its not so reliable sometimes, it can be very accurate. The individual can hone and sharpen his gift through learning Torah. This may not be considered kabbalah. It may be genetic.
5-Unknown- There, most likely, may be other forms of power source.
If one does practice the mystical tradition he would have to be granted permission to do so from a superior Rabbi.
 In this weeks parsha we find the collaboration of Bilam and Balak, both experts in black magic, both Jew haters, on a mission to destroy the Jews.
How did Bilam and Balak have knowledge of such powers?
  We learn a very interesting but difficult passage referring to our forefather Avraham: Abraham marries Keturah at the end of  parshat Chayei Sarah, and Rashi tells us that this is Hagar. When the Torah refers to someone by introducing the figure with “Shmo” or “shma” (“His/her name is”) we know that the Torah is describing the person’s essence. In this case we know that Ketura was really Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, but something about her essence involved incense, as Rashi tells us (the word Ketura is related in incense).
“And to the children of Avraham’s pilagshim (concubines-which the midrash recognizes as Hagar or Ketura) Avraham gave presents to, and sent them away from the vicinity of Yitzchok,his son, while he was still alive, eastward, to the country of the east.” There were six sons whom received gifts.

Note the following:
1. “presents…while he was still alive” tells us that Yitzchok was his sole heir.
2. “Presents” coming from Avrohom must indeed have connoted something special and unusual. Just what were the presents? The Gemara is Sanhedrin 91a (on the bottom) teaches us that Avraham gave everything he had to Yitzchok, physically and spiritually. What then, were the gifts that he give the sons of Ketura? Answers Rav Yirmiya bar Aba, “He gave over to them “The use of G-d’s name with impurity.” This Rashi tells us means that he taught them black magic and demonology. Some Sages teach us some of the black magic had to do with  incense. The knowledge of this power, Avraham received from Paroah as a gift, along with his daughter Hagar when he went to Egypt. The Maharsha asks there how could it be that Avrohom taught Ketura’s children Kishuf (black magic) which is forbidden by the Torah?
 Avraham passed down the power of kedusha to his son Yitzchak. We learned that there has to be an equilibrium in the world or else freedom of choice can not exist. Therefore just as goodness was passed to Yitzchak, so too evil black magic was reviled and given to his other sons.
Interestingly, there are other forms of negative energy. One of which is cross breeding.
The Torah prohibits the cross-breeding of species. This action is called kelaim. Shaatnez is crossbreeding linen and wool, Chessed and Gevurah,  and has tremendous ramification in the spiritual world.
 When these negative energies are created they can be formed to be more of a potent element by Evil people

Evil and impurity are often referred to in the Zohar as “the other side” [sitra achra], meaning the side distinct from, and opposed to holiness. Evil is also referred to as kelipa, meaning literally “shell” or “bark”. The kelipa conceals within it a spark of holiness, which is the vital force by virtue of which the kelipa exists, analogous to a fruit surrounded by a shell or peel. In order to release the holy spark the encumbering shell must be removed.


Kabbalah uses the term Kelipah to describe evil. Literally, Kelipah means a “peel” or “shell,” as in the peel of a fruit.

An orange will not retain its juice if it does not have a protective jacket. However when one eats the orange, one discards the peel. The peel is only there to preserve the fruit. The same is true of the existence of evil.
The Zohar distinguishes among four kelipot, three of which are entirely evil. The fourth, kelipat noga, is the shell which actually envelops the spark of holiness. It thus has direct contact with holiness and is not entirely evil. The other three kelipot surround kelipat noga and are therefore further removed from holiness.


Kabbalah divides everything in this world into either Sitra D’Kedushah (the side of holiness) or Sitra Achra (the side of impurity)-literally meaning “the other side,” or the side of Kelipah. There is nothing that is in between-every thought, speech, action, or creation has its source either in Kedushah or Kelipah.


The Midrash states that prior to the creation of this world, G-d created other worlds and destroyed them. The first world created was the World of Chaos taken from the word in Genesis 1:2, “In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and earth, the earth was Tohu Vavohu-chaotic and empty. There was a great advantage of the World of Chaos, for it was brilliant and filled with intense Lights. Its great disadvantage was that each Sefirah ( sefirah (pl. sefirot) is a channel of Divine energy or life-force. This most fundamental concept of Kabbalah is that in the process of creation an intermediate stage was emanated from God’s infinite light to create what we experience as finite reality) was egotistic and wanted all the Light for itself, unable to share or co-exist with another. The root of independence and ego therefore stems from the World of Chaos.


Such a world could not exist so it was destroyed and a much better World of Correction (Tikkun) was constructed. Where then the new world was called the World of Correction.

Many people beleive one should not get involved with a Kabbalist. What tends to happen is one often begins to rely too much on the kabbalist, on his kochot (strength) hakabala and forgoes his own kochot of the brain. However for those who are able to minimize their request to the “absolutely necessary” then perhaps, it can help one in life.


Interestingly, my father z’l passed away from prostate cancer. Unfortunately, it was diagnosed late where it already reached the bone. Nevertheless, it was localized and was under control for many years. After the illness reached an advanced stage there is no standard treatment. All the oncologists basically perform their own doctrine of medicine. Everyone had his own contraption mixing various  medication, such as different hormone therapy with chemo-therapy. I guess one can equate it to the wild wild west, where anything goes. There is no supervision; if it works, it works. Its the same with kabalah; it seems like after a certain time and experience  each kabalist has his own method.

Perhaps the reason for the “wild wild west” disparity is that each one of us, because of our diversity, has the ability to reach the highest level through our own unique way.  Conceivably, it was designed that way. There is more of an individuality; there is more of a particularity when dealing with the higher level. The essence of a person stands out more when one reaches this lofty level. He’s able to rise above with the strength of his name SHEMO.  However, and this is a very important prerequisite, one can only reach that level when he has refined his character by being aware of the importance of giving, performing chessed, and being sensitive to others.


Lets take Avraham our forefather; remember he gave the gifts to his children from Ketura. Perhaps we will see why Avraham gave gifts to those sons without string attached  while to his chosen son Yitzchak  he incorporated character development along with the secret kabbalah tradition .  When Avraham had his brit milah (circumcition) at a very old age,he wanted to do chessed-kindness. His trusted servant, Eliezer, whom he sent out to find people, came back saying he couldn’t find anybody to perform kindness. No individual was present in the heatwave. Avraham said I cannot trust my slave. There has to be someone out there.  This is  very strange. Avraham later on trusted Eliezer in finding his son Yitzchak a wife; he was his right hand man. How can he not trust him?


Chessed is an opportunity The world is build on chessed-kindness. The love of man kind  that one masters through this great trait is crucial in maintaining the existence of the world. With chessed one  fixes the TIKUN of this world contrasting the world of TOHU VAVOU. Then and only then it will  lead  one to sharpen his own individuality. In this way one is able to bring out the orange from the klipa.


I once spoke to an individual, a chasidic fellow, who practically went to every kabbalist in the world. A few years ago, out of frustration he stopped cold turkey. He said “I can get just as close to G-d as they do. Perhaps, at times,  they can give me the right answers nevertheless I’d rather go one on one’. One has to really do his homework in knowing how legitimate a kabbalist is. I know how legitimate my prayers are. I feel I am in control having a conversation with G-d.”


Going to a kabalist is not for everybody. For some it can be beneficial however for some it can be destructive

You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s , Berril Wein, Yissachar Frand Noach, Yossi Bilus,  Baruch Dopelt

Chanukah is wonderful! Chanukah is  fun! Lighting the menorah and spinning the dreidel is always enjoyable! As a matter of fact, it has been pointed out that this is in keeping with Jewish practice. For some mystical reason, Jews keep this “Rabbinic” holiday with a tenacious loyalty. The 1991 JNF Jewish Population Survey found that of 5.5 million Jews in America more than 3.5 million have no synagogue affiliation. Yet, more than 74% celebrate Chanukah. Only later they may ask, “What’s Chanukah?”
One reason for this phenomenon may be that the Mitzvah of Chanukah is for “each person and his household”. There are no grand social production or central authority, no dues, fees, or bureaucracies to outdo. One only needs to have lived in a Jewish home and there is likely a happy Chanukah memory planted there.

 However, there perhaps might be something more deeper than that. Lets explore why Chanukah is so popular. There is an obvious question that comes up every year about how the holiday always falls on the Shabbat when the parsha we read is Miketz. Conceivably, if we find the common denominator – Chanukah’s popularity will become more clear.
  The Torah reveals to us as we open the parsha that Paroah has a dream. He is very disturbed by this dream wherein seven lean cows eat seven fat cows. None of the chachamim – intelegencia of Egypt can interpret the dream for him, and this troubles him even more.
  Even if we assume that the Egyptian Pharoahs were much more superstitious than modern man, it seems rather odd that a head of state should get so upset about a crazy dream. What is so upsetting about seven lean cows swallowing seven fat cows?
 Can one imagine what would the Press do if they got hold of the story that Obama had a bad dream and is very troubled by it.
The late night talk show hosts would have a field day!! Imagine!! ” Yeah, seven skinny congressmen swallowing seven fat congressmen- there goes Obama-care”.
 Please no garlic before you go to sleep; that is the cause of bad dreams. This opens up flood gate of nighttime medications usage. One can just imagine Nightquil stock rise to an all time high.
 In order to understand the great concern Pharoah had for his bad dream, a little piece of history has to be presented for us to realize the pulse of society and how it changed due to the Jewish influence.
   In the late 1800s there arose to prominence a highly influential German philosopher by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). No serious thinker has done more harm to the Jewish people than Friedrich Nietzsche, whose writings were an important inspiration for Adolph Hitler and Nazism. Yet far from being an antisemitic, Nietzsche was one of the most pro-Jewish German writers of his time. Though debatable if Friedrich Nietzsche was anti-Semitic, no one debates that the Nazis used his writings to create the most lethal ideological brew in history – one leading to world war and the annihilation of 6 million Jews.
 What we will take out of his philosophy, for our purposes, is what he wrote pertaining to Christianity. He begins by painting Judaism as the root of all evil.   Nietzsche pointed out that the despised Christian religion had its roots in Judaism. Ideas such as “Love thy neighbor,” “turn the other cheek,” “be charitable” contradicted the idea of the Survival of the Fittest and the Übermensch. It was for the weak.
 “All that has been done on earth against ‘the nobles,’ the ‘mighty, the ‘overlords,’…is as nothing compared to what the Jews did against them: the Jews, that priestly people who were only able to obtain satisfaction against their enemies and conquerors through a radical revaluation of the latter’s values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual revenge….It was the Jews who…dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation…saying ‘the wretched alone are the good ones, the poor, the helpless, the lowly….”
 Nietzsche’s Philosophy was nothing new; he didn’t re-invent the wheel. Ancient world believed ” the strong survives and the week dies”. This belief was the way of the world.
   Rabbi Yissachar Frand  enlightens us through the teachings of Rav Shimon Schwab (1908-1995) that  Pharaoh’s whole dominion, like that of any dictator, was based on the premise that the mighty will dominate the weak. “I have the troops. I have the force. Therefore I can impose my will, because no one can do anything against me.” No one can utter a word.
Pharaoh was so bothered by this dream because it portrayed a situation wherein the weak dominated the powerful. It was the seven lean cows that swallowed the seven fat cows. He understood that as not just a silly dream, but as a terrible omen from heaven. He saw this as a Divine message that his dominion was not secure despite his power. This message shook him to the core, for it undermined the premise of his whole monarchy.
Rab Schwab further points out that Parshas Miketz always coincides with Chanukah. This is a constant of the Jewish calendar. It is not just a coincidence. One of the major themes of Chanukah is the idea that “the mighty fell into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few”, as we say in the Al HaNissim prayer.
  This is what we taught the world. It’s an appealing concept that perhaps the underdogs can prevail. The Miracle Mets that rocked the Baseball world in 1969,  Israel, a tiny country winning the ’67 War against the compiling Arab nations. There was no logic in their victories.
 The Macabees proved that the underdog can win. They proved that the laws of nature is not the prevailing last word. That there is a G-d and He can, at will, say” hey Mack, not so fast. I run the show. It’s my world”. He can proclaim “the fly will crush the elephant”; the Jewish people will win over the strongest army in the world and that oil can burn eight days rather than one.
 The Macabees didn’t put their lives in danger for land or for a better materialistic lifestyle. They endangered themselves because the Jews’ primary essence “the Torah” was at stake. This is what they fought for; this is what they deemed important that they would risk their lives. The Torah is what makes us – Jews! And the fact that we defended it, G-d made us victorious!
 We see the concept “G-d’s will prevails throughout the Torah” whether it be David over Goliath or even in our subject matter of Yossef and his brothers. Yossef survives against all odds and rises all the way to the top of the world. As he climbs the latter of success he even saves his brothers from the famine.
 This is what is so appealing about Chanukah. Perhaps we feel for the underdog  because we are underdogs ourselves!!! Perhaps deep down in every Jewish soul they believe that against all of nature – G-d will change their fortune. Perhaps….perhaps, they believe in G-d.


When the dreamer collides with the realist….BOOM!!!

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s , Berril Wein, Yissachar Frand Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Yossi Bilus, and Dr. Abba Goldman
Boro Park 1963 and Alexanders on Queens Blvd where many of our mothers shoped

My parents immigrated, from Israel, to this great big country in 1960. They had hopes and dreams like many settlers who stepped on American soil. My father, whose dream of coming to the United States ever since he was a teenager, was so disappointed after the first three months of arriving, he wanted to go back. However, my mother firmly objected, stating “we are here and we’ll make the best of it”. Their sleeping arrangement was quite difficult back then; they used the living room drapes to cover themselves in the Boro Park apartment shared by relatives; my father slept on the floor while my mother slept on the couch. Money did not grow on the trees as it was thought and they struggled mightily in the early years.

There is a photo, which I recall, in my parents pictures archives, where they were sitting in the living room with our basement tenant, a single guy from Israel, a very recent immigrant, in our Rego Park home in the early 60’s. It seamed they were all excited, full of energy; they were hungry, eager, full of hope, to sink their teeth into the American workforce. My parents and their friends, who came around the same time, like many wanted to express to their loved ones, back home, that they made it!!; they were successful in the land of opportunity.

In this week’s parsha we learn a very valuable lesson about life. It becomes evident from the beginning that there is a clear difference between Yosef and his brothers. Yosef is the classic dreamer, his head in the stars and his youthful high spirits and certainty in the truthful outcome of his dreams becomes very irritating to his siblings. The brothers, on the other hand, have their feet firmly implanted on the ground, in the reality of the world in which they exist.

Yosef feels the brothers have been unjust for rejecting his dreams immediately and they in turn are convinced that he and his dreaming constitute a veritable danger to the unity and survival of Yaakov’s family.

By carefully analyzing the conflict between Yosef and his brothers, and for the most part, Yehuda, since he’s the leader, the underlying message is the difference of inspirational theory of Judaism and it’s sometimes day to day practice of practical reality – of what can be achieved even though it is not exactly what one dreamt of achieving. Although it presents itself as two separate entities, Yosef and his brothers, it is our utmost responsibility to combine both.

The Jewish people in its long and difficult history have somehow been able to fuse together the spirit and dreams of Yosef with the hardheaded realism of his brothers. Both traits are necessary for our survival and accomplishments, both as individuals and as a nation. Someone without dreams and ambition, who refuses to reach heavenward and conquer the stars, will never be a truly creative or original person. However, if this drive is not tempered by a realistic sense of the situation and the society that surrounds us, then all dreams are doomed to eventually disappoint.

Our celebration this week of the holiday of Chanukah is based on the kindness of G-d for performing the great miracles on his chosen people. However, it’s vital that we should not rely on miracles; one cannot sit back expect G-d to deliver; one has to put effort; it’s quite important that one has to use brains; he has to be clever to handle any situations that’s presented. If after all the efforts are exhausted then and only then may he turn to G-d.

The Macabees were a small band of untrained individuals, clearly the underdogs, with the dream of beating the most powerful nation in the world. They had the hope, the dream, the drive of Yosef combining the ingenuity and practicality of Yehuda and the brothers. The Macabees found a method where they were able to inflict a wound under the elephant, the Greeks most powerful and deadly weapon. There is a soft spot in the location of the elephant, where the Jewish warriors were able to inflict a devastating knife wound. Although, one of Matityahu’s (the Jewish leader) sons was killed in an attempt, the huge animal trampled him. The experience, although at a terrible price, had enabled them to refine the method of attack. The motivation and dream of regaining the holy Temple with the ingenuity of finding the right clever warfare approach led to the Jewish victory. It’s incredible!! The Macabees subdued the greatest empire in the world. This band of Kohanim organized an effective military.



In the Shabbat morning Amida (Shemoneh Esrei) we read “YISMACH MOSHE BEH MATANAT CHELKO”, Moshe was happy. What exactly Moshe was happy about?

It says in tractate Baba Kama(10:2) that G-d was speaking to Moshe and said ” I have a present in my secret chamber and it is Shabbat, and I want to give it to the Jewish people. So please, Moshe, go and bring the good news to them”. It was for this reason that “Yismach Moshe”, that Moshe was ecstatic to be the one to deliver the news.

When the Jews were in Egypt, Moshe saw how torturously overworked they were, so he convinced Pharaoh to give them one day off to rest. He reasoned that ” if one wants to maximize the production of his workers, one has to give them a day of rest. That day was the seventh day, Shabbat. Therefore, Moshe was happy.

This day, Shabbat, which Pharaoh gave them to rest, was a very significant day for them in the spiritual growth and hope for the redemption. They would congregate and read from Megilot (scripts) about how G-d was going to redeem them; it was a very inspirational day. It gave them a vision for the future. However, when Pharaoh discovered what was being conducted on these Shabbat gatherings (not sure if Cholent was served!!) he discontinued them. After this disclosure, he made them work double on Shabbat with no straw to work with.

But it was too late; the seed was planted. The Jews in Egypt now saw beyond the bricks and straws. They saw the future, a bright one. This was due to the ability to hope. The Yosef in each Jew began to flourish.



This story of Yosef and his brothers, particularly the roles of Yosef and Yehuda, does not end with the narrative of the Torah here in Bereshit. In later Jewish history, after the death of King Shlomo, the Jewish nation is split into two sections – the kingdom of Israel (Yosef) and the kingdom of Yehuda (the house of David.) Thus the competition between the two leading sons of Yakov’s family, Yehuda and Yosef, survived centuries of attempted unity. And the eventual result of this split within the Jewish nation was disaster for both sections of that nation. Both sections of the nation were weakened.

The Rabbis of the Talmud divided the Messiah himself into two personages – Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid (a descendant of the tribe of Yehuda.) The former was to pave the way for the latter, but both were part of the envisioned messianic process. Apparently, Jewish redemption and fulfillment is dependent on both Yosef and Yehuda and is destined to realization only if both are full participants in the process.

Yosef remains a holy Jew, in spite of his being exposed to the decadence of the prevailing Egyptian culture. He is an integral part of the Egyptian court and world, but he really is only an outsider looking in and not really desirous of “belonging” to the culture that surrounds him. Yosef is the model for the Jew who is successful in the general world but doggedly determined to remain faithful to his own soul, tradition and destiny as a son of Yakov. Yehuda is much more cautious and conservative. He has seen the outside world, the general society and is frightened to become part of it. Yehuda has lost sons, has suffered tragedy and disappointment, has made errors and risen from sin, and is willing to sacrifice all to remain Jewish and save other Jews. Yehuda does not wish to be Yosef. He sees Yosef’s way as being too dangerous, too risky – certainly for the masses of Israel. Yosef, on the other hand, cannot see a future for Israel if it is completely isolated from the general society, of which it is a part, no matter what Israel’s preference in the matter may be.
Yosef takes the risks and is successful in maintaining his Jewishness and in raising holy children and grandchildren, in the midst of the squalor of Egyptian culture. But Yehuda is also successful in his way and Yosef and Yehuda therefore march in lock step throughout Jewish history. They remain competitors and sometimes they have harsh things to say to and about each other and their different paths. But in the end, they are both the pillars of Jewish survival and society. They complement each other even if many times they do not utter compliments about each other. They are partners in the messianic and redemptive historical process of Jewish history. They are both still here with us today in our own personal and national struggle to build a Torah nation and a good world. We should appreciate their presence and influence upon us.

That generation of builders, our parents, are now the great grandparents of today’s young. What were the results of their dreams?

If the achievements of the dreams and hope of Yosef were planted with the skillful practicality of Yehuda, there is a good chance that success was imminent. As Theodore Roosevelt said “I want men to fix their eyes on the stars, but they must not forget to feel the ground on which they walk”

After World War II, the future Rosh Yeshiva (headmaster) of the Ponevezh Yeshiva, one of the largest Yeshiva in the world today, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, was quoted as saying , as he stood on a hill where the future yeshiva stands overlooking Bnai Brak Israel, “I am going to build B’H a tremendous Yeshiva”. He was told “you must be dreaming”. He answered back “I’m dreaming, however I’m not sleeping”.” One has to work on his dreams in order to be successful!!!”

introduction to Chanukah

Introduction to Chanukah
Once one lets the Jeanie is out of the bottle and one knows once its out it’s pretty hard to put it back in. There was one incident which demonstrated this which broke the armor of the Jewish way of life. This happened when Alexander the great came to inspect his new conquest. The Jews were naturally scared; after all we Jews don’t have the best track record of being liked by the rest of the world.

Upon entering the gate of the city Alexander did something very unusual and down right shocking, he got off his horse and prostrated to one of the Jewish members of the welcoming community, Yochanan the High Priest. Asked by his advisers why he bowed down to the Jew. He answered “I always saw an angel before I went to battle that led me to victory and that’s the face”.

Alexander was kind to the Jews. He eased the restrictions and hardship imposed on them. However one of the conditions is to name for one year all new born boys Alexander. This opened the door for other Greek names, language and culture.

After Alexander’s death the world was left in a state of chaos. The Greek Empire was split. The south, led by Tol’me, always tried to persuade Greek culture on the Jews. The North was led by Salacious who attempted to persuade by force of arms. The North and the South agreed on everything except where to draw the line and that line happened to be Israel.

Greek the choice culture

The Greek culture slowly started to seep into Jewish society. When Jews embrace a society it becomes dangerous. Here the Jews became more Greek then the Greeks, which always happens in our history. The reason is we have to prove ourselves, “super Germans”, “super American”, or “super Russians”, as an example of just a few ways that Jews try to fit in to the society around them.

Mityavnim- Jews that adopted Greek live, other wise known as Hellenism. Hellenism adopted Greek culture as a way of life. These Jew were ready to give up Judaism. Forty percent of Jews, most of the affluent class were affected. Correspondence among these Jews was in Greek. The Mityavnim men even had cosmetic surgery to put back the piece of foreskin because everything in the culture was nude, bathhouses sports. So these Jews were embarrassed. WE WANT TO BE GREEKS!!

Greeks would have won the battle by default but they over stepped themselves. In 190 B.C. the North gained the upper hand. Their tactics were always “by force”. Jews are a stubborn people, the most secular Jew if forced not to follow the Torah will turn around and say “I’m going to show you I can be a Jew”.

The Greeks passed very oppressive laws; they banned Shabbat; a Jewish bride on her wedding night had to live first with a Greek officer; they banned circumcision etc.

The Battle

In 165 B.C. a group stood up to the Greeks. Matistyahu the high priest lived in the town of Molbene began the uprising. The Greeks came to town and placed a pig on the Alter. They asked for a Jewish volunteer to proceed with this humiliating ceremony. One unfortunate Jew volunteered where Matisyahu proceeded to killed him. This dare by a Jew triggered a battle which escalated into a war between the mighty Greek army and the Macabees. An army which never exceeded more than 12,000 men.

Why is lighting the Menorah the symbol of Chanukah? How does it relate to the Jews winning the war?

The minority won over the majority; that’s what we read about the victory. In essence this is what lighting the menorah’s all about. A little light can light up a whole room and more. The few Jews were able to beat the most powerful nation in the world. The Greeks represent darkness while the Jews, the righteous Jews, represent the light. The Hellenist who supported the Greek army soon after the war were executed. One cannot see the light if there is no darkness. A bulb lit in the day is irrelevant. This is the reason we must only light at night. The darker it is the more intense the light. Darkness, many times, is confusion. We have to feel with all our heart the miracle and to show the world through lighting it in public the clear light; the power of G-d

The Macabees fought guerrilla warfare in caves. The tactics was orchestrated brilliantly by the Jews. The Greek army was worn out, deflated. The Jews destroyed three armies. Eliezer, one of Matisyahu’s sons fought a battle using elephants. The Fortress of Antiyachous, the last great battle led by brother Shimon starved the Greeks out. Shimon’s memorable moment was destroying the Greek Idol Zeus into million pieces. The victory was the spirit of the Jewish people

Everyone has a favorite teacher…do you?

Everyone has a favorite teacher…do you?

this article was constructed from the insights of Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, Rosh Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim, Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus

Each one of us had a favorite teacher who had a great deal of influence on us. Some actually had more than a few teachers over the years that fall under that “favorite” category. When we look back, with a certain fondness about them, a memorable smile breaks out.
However, one has to ask himself, has this person actually made a difference when a crucial decision came into play? Were they there, in our conscience, when the game was on the line? Was their teaching tested and we were able to take their words of wisdom to the finish line and declare “I WON!! I PASSED THE TEST!!!”?


In this week’s parsha, we find Yosef telling over to his brothers the dreams he had. The Torah’s description of the dreams and the reaction of Yosef’s brothers are quite puzzling.
First and foremost, to say his brothers weren’t exactly thrilled about him and his dreams would be considered a huge understatement. They were contemplating killing him as a result.
But there is a substantial lesson that can be learned from this story that is applicable in our everyday life. Let’s examine the verses more carefully and get a deeper understanding.
The first dream that Yosef had involves sheaves. Yosef tells his brothers that their sheaves gathered around and bowed down to his sheaves.
The second dream was basically the same theme; Yosef revealed to them that the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.
The brothers were angry and responded to the first dream by saying “Do you want to rule over us?” while there was no response from them after the second one.
The Torah states that the brothers hated him after the first dream was revealed while the scripture says the brothers were jealous after the second one.
Why was the reaction to each dream any different from the other?
What’s the difference between the two dreams?
Referring to the second dream it says “His father took it to heart”.
Why did his father take the second dream more serious?
In the first sequence about sheaves or stalks as its focal point, the scripture is hinting to a materialistic dominance. Its message, for the future, is that the brothers will depend on Yosef for their sustenance.
When someone sees his friend that’s financially more stable then he, he often questions why this is so. “He’s not better than me. We’re the same in many ways. Perhaps that’s just plain old mazal.” However, human nature is for hatred to develop as a result
The brothers knew that dreams for the most part are a reflection of the sub-conscience. They concluded, “This is what he’s thinking of us. He wants to be our boss”.
The brothers, though, took the second dream a bit more serious. The scenario of the sun, moon and the stars is a spiritual concept. Here, they realized that it’s not a reflection of the sub-conscience but a spiritual revelation. Therefore they were jealous of Yosef’s motivational and spiritual abilities. There is a Talmudic concept of SHTIKA KEH HODA’A – silence is a form of admittance.
Yaakov, their father, although he did not admit it, was startled by the second dream. The reason is that only Yaakov knew that in the heavens they referred to him as the sun.

It seams like the Torah is hinting that Yosef possessed certain abilities, which perhaps came through personal teachings from his father, as a gift from the heavens, or a combination of both. Apparently, life is such that the narrative will soon reveal that this gifted person will soon be tested.

In order to fully understand the magnitude of Yosef’s test, we have to examine a very interesting part of our Jewish history.
Yeush was born in the midst of troublesome days in the land of Judea, in the year 3055 (after Creation). He became king at the age of six!! (3061). The Jewish nation was divided into two kingdoms. On the throne, which once belonged to King David and King Solomon, sat a ruthless and cruel queen. Her name was Athalya, the daughter of Queen Jezebel, the Phoenician princess whom the wicked King Ahab of the Northern Jewish Kingdom of the Ten Tribes had married. In an effort to bring the two Jewish kingdoms into friendlier relations, the two royal houses intermarried. The crown prince Joram, the son of King Jehoshaphat of Judea, married Athalyah the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.
After many heavy, underhanded, dirty and deadly maneuvering, Athalyah took control of the Monarch. One of her decree’s to assure she will rule undisputedly was that she resolved that there should be no heir to the throne of Judea from the House of David. She ordered the death of all the members of the royal house of King David, and established herself as the supreme ruler of the land of Judea. She surrounded herself with friends from Phoenicia and ruled with an iron hand, spreading a reign of terror in the land.
Athalyah felt secure in her position, believing that the royal house of David was extinct. But she was wrong, for G-d had promised that the line of King David would never be broken. Ahaziah’s youngest son, whom Athalyah had believed had been murdered with the other male members of the royal family, had been saved from his bloodthirsty grandmother. He was still a baby, and his name was Yeush. He was saved by Jehosheba, a sister of King Ahaziah and the wife of the High Priest Yehoyada. Astonishingly, the one year old prince was hidden in the Bet Hamikdash, above a room by the “Kodash Hakadoshim” and brought up, secretly, by his pious and G-d fearing uncle and aunt.
For six years Athalyah ruled uncontrolled, dealing harshly with the believers in G-d. During all this time, Yehoyada, the wise and pious High Priest, nursed in his heart the secret hope for the future of his people that was centered around the last member of David’s dynasty. Yehoyada had many friends and followers, who, like himself, had remained faithful to the pure worship of G-d, and who longed for the day when the hateful Athalyah could be overthrown, and the House of David reinstated on the throne of the Holy Land.
When little Yeush was seven years old, Yehoyada decided that the time had come to liberate Judea from the unpopular foreign woman who had desecrated the throne of David.
The coup attempt was successful with no resistance whatsoever. Athalya was executed and Yeush became king. He reigned for forty years, and was one of the outstanding kings of Judea.
However, after Yehoyada died, Yeush fell under the influence of the wrong people and was led astray into a life of ease and luxury. He abandoned the pure worship of One G-d, and began to indulge in the service of the Baal. Yeush fell so low that shockingly he killed the great Prophet Zacharia, who happened to be the son of Yehoyada, the same person who saved his life, the one who had nurtured, taught and cared for him through the years!!
How can you bite the hand that feeds you?
How can Yeush fall so low after the death of his teacher?
We see a similar situation after the death of Shimi ben Gaira the teacher and mentor of the wisest man who ever lived, King Shlomo. Shlomo began to slip and make errors in judgment after his death.
We learn a valuable lesson about communication and teaching. There are basically two ways one can convey the valuable message:
LEHOROT- giving instructions
LILMOD- teaching until one stands on his/her own two feet
It’s not ideal to memorize the manual one has to understand the content.
Yosef was tested with one of the most difficult situations in the history of physical temptations. He was being seduced, unsuccessfully though, with the beautiful wife of his employer on a daily basis.
The boss’s wife, eshet Potifar, would up the ante at every occasion until it reached a boiling point where she forcefully tried to have relations with him. Yosef at the moment of truth envisioned his father, his teacher. This motivated, or I should say distracted, him from pursuing sinning with a married woman.

Yaakov successfully taught Yosef the valuable lesson of standing on his own feet. It’s not enough to be gifted. One has to use these skills properly. This is the spiritual greatness of Yosef.
There was a huge epidemic where many Jews were killed at the time of King David because he counted the people. For this reason we have a tradition to never count individual Jews. The Sages teach us that the reason there was death and suffering was because the Temple wasn’t built during David’s time.
Why is it the people’s fault? It was David that had blood on his hands and G-d wouldn’t allow him to build it. Why blame the people?
The Sages say, “Granted. David wasn’t worthy. However the people were. The nation of Israel delayed the building. They should have voiced their opinion ” Why don’t we have a temple?”.and “Let’s start a petition!!” ” They should have began some grass roots. One friend persuading another and perhaps one farmer from the Galil would be responsible in starting the building process.
Rav Henoch always would say “There is permission in one not using his brains”. It’s imperative that a Jew internalizes what he learns and who knows? Perhaps one may discover a way to bring the Mashiach quicker.
There was a college Professor who relayed a story that many years ago there was a psychological case study of inner-city ghetto schools where they would interview 200 students. The motive of the test was to predict, through mathematical analysis, the outcome of these students. As one can expect, many of the student came from broken, one-parent homes.
The result wasn’t very promising that these students would amount to anything.
Twenty years later, this Professor, who happened to be one of those students, was curious to know how these students turned out.
After an extensive research of tracking them down He was astonished to discover how off the mark the study was. 80% of the students were living a productive life.
The professor decided to probe deeper into how these students beat the odds. He interviewed each one and found a common denominator, which was one particular teacher that they all liked.
He was curious to meet this teacher, although twenty years latter he didn’t think she was still alive. Nevertheless after researching further he tracked her down at a particular nursing home. She was in her eighties. The professor went to visit the teacher. He asked her “What was your key to success?” She said “I tried to instill in them a sense of self. I had a motivating slogan “No matter what, you can do it”. These students and Yosef had this in common. They can honestly say that the influence their teachers had on them made a difference, especially when it counted. They can say with full assurance “”I WON!! I PASSED THE TEST!!!”