Archive for March 2016

Faith, money and the kosher food industry

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus,
Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Asher Hurzberg,  Tanya chapters 7-8

I remember when M&M’s, Snickers and Milky Ways received their kosher OU certification. Those were the classic candy bars we ate as kids. Our teachers and parents informed us soon after that those beloved chocolates were not kosher. I must say we were deeply disappointed; for a child that was my biggest test.  I remember saying “G-d All Mighty, what’s a kid supposed to eat? Hard candy?” Many years later, when I was in my 30’s it was announced that those candy/chocolate bars got an “OU dairy”. I felt liberated. That day,  I remember buying, proudly, a pack of M&M’s  and marching down the station to catch the F train to go home from work and to my pleasant surprise seeing another Jew with a Yarmulke holding an M&M pack grinning at me.  Without hesitating twice, my response was the famous M&M’S commercial slogan: “It melts in your mouth, not your hands.”
Kosher stand at Citi Fields New York Mets Baseball team

Kashrut is a Biggy in Judaism. A very big deal. As my father once said to me, and he had no idea that I would end up becoming a Rabbi, “Don’t ever go into kashrut, it’s a dirty business.” Where did this come from? My grandfather was a Shochet – ritual slaughterer. He had a colleague who, like himself, was a Shochet and was in fact threatened with his life by the store owner to give a certification for a non-kosher animal. This took place in the early 1900 in Samarkand.  My friends were not surprised, when I retold this story for they too heard something similar that occurred in their own community’s historic past.

How low can people get to sell their soul for money? How can you be the cause of making others eat non-kosher?  The only reason we can give is that it happens to be a lot of money and when there is money at stake people lose themselves.  Don’t be mistaken, I know there are many very honest and hardworking people in the Kashrut industry.   I must commend every Rabbi, every mashgiach, and every kashrut organization for its near impossible task. The kashrut business is tough and carries a very big responsibility. The temptation is great and the sin is also great. Even if one only eats non-kosher because he thinks it is kosher there are still great repercussions. Why?
In life there is luxury and necessity. Food, it’s a necessity. Ever notice that when one is feeling down and out and the whole world seems like it’s caving in, that if one were to consume even a slight portion of food, within minutes they are like a new person. The confidence is back; the strength is re-captured, and the color is back on the face
Food can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  Everything has to be measured; we have to be careful not to skip meals, ignore body cues, and especially not eat when we’re full, because it’s there, it’s so good, or because it’s left on their child’s plate. Oops! Down the hatch it goes. We have to be mindful, and mindful eating comes with an awareness of tastes, textures, smells.
After a certain age we have to be careful; we have to be additionally mindful how much goes in to the tank. There is Blood Type Diet, Fit for Life, The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, vegetarian, vegan etc. How many of us have been on and off carbs, on and off proteins? How many have gorged on fruits and vegetables?
Food can also be a delicacy. When it comes to the consumption of food we Jews have some of the best kitchens. We like to eat. Some of us are obsessed with Shabbat Kiddushs; they are obsessed with getting the right caterers for their happy occasions. Meissner’s meatballs, Mealmart’s pastrami in mustard sauce, Romania’s Deli in Chicago; I can go on and on. Bottom line, the Jewish food industry is thriving and its big business a very big business.
It could have been even bigger business, except one little obstruction stands in the way. Kashrut.
The laws of kosher food are introduced to the Jewish people in this week’s Parsha. All the commandments must be performed if for no other reason than because God has commanded us. However, the Torah concludes its presentation of dietary laws with a strict warning of another reason not to partake of “taref.” “Do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them” [Ch. 11, verse 43]
Messilat Yesharim explains: “Forbidden food brings impurity into the heart and soul of a person–literally–until God distances Himself from the one who ate them… Forbidden foods are worse than other sins because they actually enter a person’s body and become a part of his flesh.”
In more contemporary terms: “You are what you eat!” When Moshe was rescued from the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter, he would not nurse from the Egyptian women. Rashi explains that the mother’s milk has in it the elements of the food’s she has consumed, therefore Moshe, who was to converse with God, could not partake of such impurity. Mother’s milk, which is merely a byproduct of what she has eaten, has in it the potential “dull the heart and instill a bad nature in the infant.”[Rama/Yoreh Deah 81:7]
Now we understand the problem with eating non-kosher food, even if you’re under a false impression. But how does it dull the soul?
First let’s examine why food is spiritually important.  Whether it be holidays, Shabbat or for that matter, every time we eat we have a chance to elevate our souls to a higher realm. Let’s take an example.
One famous time of the year where certain foods shine is Rosh Hashana, for it protects us for the entire year. On Rosh Hashanah, a traditional practice is to eat simanim, or symbolic foods, in order to symbolize good things for the future.  How does it work? Can it really benefit us?
The origin of eating simanim can be found in the Talmudic discussion of omens (Horayot 12a; Keritot 6a). Abayei comments that since “simana milta” that is, “omens are of significance,” a person should make it a practice to “see” [other texts state to “eat”] five specific symbolic foods at the Rosh Hashanah table.
Interestingly, on Tu b’Shevat we have a tradition to eat fruit. The fruits repairs one’s eating for the entire year, so much so, that our eating can become like that of Adam and Eve before their spiritual fall (Pri Tzadik, Parashat Beshalach). Since their spiritual fall and contraction came about through impulsively eating from a tree, we can create a spiritual elevation and expansion by eating fruits in mindfulness and holiness.
We are capable of expanding holiness into the realm of pleasure because the source of our souls is located in the lofty ‘Ta’anug/ Divine pleasure’. (Noam Elimelech, Parashat Shemot) The Shabbat Aravit prayer calls us an ‘am medushnei oneg”  or a “people saturated with delight.” Each of us is capable of this ecstatic delight, even amid our worldly needs and concerns. Thus, it’s important to enjoy what you eat.
Another food which has tremendous spiritual benefit is Matzah. Matzot are baked quickly, in an effort to overcome the influences and limitations of time. We bake flat, crisp matzah in order to reenact the Exodus, when the Children of Israel fled Egypt in a hurry, as the Torah says: “You shall eat matzot during seven days…bread of suffering, for you departed Egypt in great haste.” This mitzvah teaches that God’s control of nature and history is above and beyond the constraints and limitations of time. God does not require cause and effect. He does not need time in order to accomplish His goals. On Passover, we too must emulate God and become creative spiritually by hurrying time, by acting with zeal and speed, by living life beyond time, in partnership with God who is above time and is timeless. We respond to God’s Will by acting in defiance of nature, by breaking the limits imposed by time and nature.
Rabbi Yesa opened and said the following about the verse (Exodus 25:23), “You shall make a Table of acacia wood…”. This table stands inside the Tabernacle and a supernal blessing dwells upon it. From it emerges food for the whole world, and this table should not be empty even for one moment. There should be food on it, because the blessing is not present in an empty place. Therefore, bread must constantly be on it, in order that the supernal blessing shall always be present in it. And from that table, blessing and food come out to all the other tables of the world, for they are blessed due to it.
The table of every person has to be before him at the time that he blesses G-d in order that the blessing from above should dwell upon it and should not appear empty. For the blessings from above do not dwell in an empty place, as it is written: “Tell me, what have you in the house?” (II Kings 4:2)
When a person has a craving, a hunger for bread, this is but a reflection of his soul’s craving for the Divine utterance that is the “soul” of the bread, which the human being “redeems” by utilizing the energy he or she derives from the food towards a G-dly purpose.
There is a deep meaning of the verse (Psalms 107:5): “The hungry and thirsty, in them does their soul envelope itself.” A person desiring food may sense only his body’s hunger. In truth, however, “enveloped within” his physical hunger and thirst is his soul’s hunger for the “soul” of the food — the “sparks of holiness” within it which it is his mission to redeem.
The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the “Ari”, 1534-1572) taught that every created thing possesses a “spark” of divine energy that constitutes its essence and soul. When a person utilizes something toward a G-dly end, he brings to light this divine spark displaying it and realizing the purpose for which it was created. In all physical substances, a material “husk” (kelipah) encases and conceals the divine spark at its core, causing great effort on the part of man to access the spark. But accessing the spark is crucial for the one eating the food and for the world. The world gains a spiritual force.
No existence is free from a divine spark — certainly, nothing can exist without the spark of G-dliness that infuses it with being and purpose. But not every spark can be actualized. There are certain “solid” elements whose sparks are inaccessible to us. The fact that something is forbidden by the Torah means that its husk cannot be penetrated, so that its spark remains locked within it and cannot be elevated.
Thus, one who eats a piece of kosher meat and then uses the energy gained from it to perform a mitzvah, thereby elevates the spark of divinity that is the essence of the meat, freeing it of its mundane embodiment and raising it to a state of fulfilled spirituality. However, if one would do the same with a piece of non-kosher meat, no such “elevation” would take place. Even if he applied the energy to positive and G-dly ends, this would not constitute a realization of the divine purpose in the meat’s creation, since the consumption of the meat was an express violation of the divine will.
This is the deeper significance of the Hebrew terms assur and mutar used by Torah law for the forbidden and the permissible. Assur, commonly translated as “forbidden,” literally means “bound”, implying that these are things whose sparks the Torah has deemed bound and imprisoned in a shell of negativity and constrained. Mutar (“permitted”), which literally means “unbound,” is the term for those sparks which the Torah has empowered us to disengage from their mundane embodiment and actively involve in our positive undertaking.
The “bound” elements of creation also have a role in the realization of the divine purpose outlined by the Torah. But their role is a “negative” role – they exist so that we should achieve a conquest of self by resisting them. “I will not eat” – this is a commandment to not do something. There is no Torah-authorized way in which they can actively be involved in our development of creation, no way in which they may themselves become part of the “dwelling for G-d” that we is charged to make of our world. Of these elements it is said, “Their breaking is their rectification.”  Whether it be McDonalds, Burger King, they exist to be rejected and defeated, and it is in their defeat and exclusion from our lives that their purpose is realized.
But by eating kosher one enhances spirituality in himself. He makes use of the spark that is incorporated in the food therefore releasing the food from its mundane status and it too is spiritually elevated. So we see this is one of the sources of spirituality, “food”‘.
We learn a valuable lesson about priorities from non-other than Avraham Avinu, our forefather. Avraham was a very rich man. It says G-d blessed Avraham “BA’KOL”, with everything. One should always have loyal people working for you. Avraham had his faithful servant Eliezer by his side. The verse states about Eliezer “HAMOSHEL” – he was in charge of all of Avraham’s possessions. Avraham, as the pasuk seemingly implies, trusted Eliezer wholeheartedly. However, peculiarly and, for the most part, very out of character when it came to finding a mate for his son Yitzchak Avraham made Eliezer swear that he will go down and find him a girl as he specifically instructed. What happened to the loyalty? What happened to the trusted servant that you rely on and have faith with all your possessions?
The answer is simple. Granted Avraham had complete trust in Eliezer when it came to financial matters. However when it came to matchmaking, finding a wife, the spiritual essence of the future of Israel, that’s different!!! That is separate from the money. That is faith and there, one has to raise the stakes.
Kashrut is separate then money, it’s the spiritual essence of the Jewish people. We have to have reliable certificates on the food we eat. We have to trust the people in charge to take all the precautions that will enable them not to tempted by greed, the mighty dollar.


The significance of the various names of G-d

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Asher Hurzberg, Henoch Leibowitz z’tl, Eliyahu Dessler z’tl

Ever wonder why in the siddur there are many variations of the name of G-d? Here is a little glimpse of some of G-d’s many names, SHALOM, EMET, KEL SHAKAY, ELOKIM, HASHEM…… What is the reason for so many different ones? Couldn’t one just suffice?
The answer lies in the explanation of how G-d runs the world. Rav Eliyahu Dessler, in his book Michtav Me’Eliyahu, explains there are two major methods in which G-d runs the world. One of them is through Rachamim – compassion, and the other one of them is through Din – harsh judgment. Yearly, daily, or even hourly, Rachamim and Din constantly seesaw back and forth. We, as clever Jews, push the right button at the right time and place to capitalize on the moment on hand. It’s similar to musical chairs; when the music stops you better be seated. For example, morning prayers are under the cover of Rachamim, while afternoon prayers fall under Din. When the time is ripe for compassion then one prays his heart out. When it’s time to do business then so be it. So As King Shlomo writes in Mishlay “There is a time for everything.”
By comedians, of course, the opposite of what we just said is true. They shock the audience with something contrary to the norm, using the most improper timing available. For instance, one of the most hilarious scenes in the history of comedy was “Chuckles the clown” where the clown got killed by an elephant who stampeded him. Following the news many of his friends were laughing and reminiscing at the clown’s antics including how he died. However, the main friend was mortified at how everyone was making light of the clown. After all, he just passed away. “Show some dignity” she scolded her friends. However at the actual funeral, the same stern and usually morbid character who berated everyone for not being serious was giggling and laughing uncontrollably and noticed by all, while the rest were somber.
As Jew, however, we know the proper times. The Seder night when we celebrate Pesach, for example, is considered a powerful night. It’s a night where G-d shows compassion therefore we have to seize the moment and apply what is needed to optimize our chances to receive the proper brachot.
The most famous examples of “choose your battles” would be the month (Elul) before Rosh Hashana where we say slichot every morning or possibly even after midnight, if you’re a night owl. Why do we say it at those particular times? For we’ve learned that after midnight G-d proves to be leaning towards the Rachamim side and in order to invoke more compassion we ask forgiveness during that period of time.
In this week’s parsha, Vayera, it’s very interesting to note that by the narrative of the verses, we can see how G-d fluctuates between DIN and RACHAMIM. G-d manipulates the moment changing the tone, the mood. We notice this through the use of the Master of the Universe’s name.
The parsha starts in an unusual way. Its starts with VAYEDABER- a harsher way of saying “and he spoke”. The name ELOKIM connote G-d judging with strictness. “VAYOMER” the other variation of “and he spoke” is softer and is found in the second half of the verse. The passuk ends ANI HASHEM G-d’s other name. Hashem implies compassionate, kindness, mercy. So ELOKIM and HASHEM are in the same sentence.
The underlying deep meaning of this first passuk is ELOKIM has been running the show. Strict judgment was in the air and the Jews are suffering. The Egyptians have not treated them very well; they were not being good hosts; they went overboard. The original intent of the Egyptians was to give the Israelites normal accommodations. One of the key tests in life is to treat subordinates with the proper respect. It is very tempting to take advantage when one is at a high position. The Egyptians failed that test. The became a super power thanks to Joseph and the Jews. However, it seems like they forgot who buttered their bread. The Egyptians denounced G-d who butters everyone’s bread – “We do not recognize your G-d” was the popular slogan. Their arrogant nature resulting from success was apparent. We see another lesson from here – the freedom of choice in the world. For its not just the Jews that have the ability to choose but the gentile nations as well. They too are being tested.
G-d is implying in the first part of the passuk that the Jews have been on DIN-justice mode however “ANI HASHEM” now I will demonstrate compassion.
(Verse 3) “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with [the name] Almighty God, but [with] My name YHWH, I did not become known to them.”
The next verse G-d mentions that he came to our forefathers in the form of another name KEL SHKAKY but my compassionate name I did not show them.
We have mention previously the definition of the word OLAM -world is hidden. Our job is to discover G-d and draw him out in the open. Avraham was the first man to do so. KEL SHAKAY means to draw G-d into nature. Avraham accomplished that feat through the ten tests. There was not one person before Avraham who was able to draw G-d into the world. However our forefathers wanted to be judged with strict judgement. As it states in the verse “I did not show them HASHEM”, which is referring to compassion”. The end of the passuk again refers as now I will change gears.
We learn from verse 5 through 8 that G-s has heard the cries of b’nai Yisrael and sees the Egyptian torturing the Jews. He then said “I will remember the covenant I made with your forefathers. I will take you out of Egypt, I am Hashem”. I will now be on compassion mode, however once will form b’nai Yisrael into a nation I will switch back to ELOKIM; this means I will go back to strict judgement mode.
An obvious, powerful question arises: Why go back to strict Judgement? I would be perfectly okay with compassion! Why did our forefathers ask to be judged with strict judgement?
In order to answer the question we have to fast forward when the Jews were in the desert and Moshe, the leader, and his brother Aharon, the high Priest, were in the twilight of their lives.
One of the most tragic incidences in the Torah is the death of the two sons of Aharon – Nadav and Avihu. The Sages indicate that everyone assumed they were the heir apparent to the leadership. They were smart, charismatic and came from one of the leading families of the Jewish people. A matchmaker would undoubtedly label them a ‘catch’. They brought an unauthorized sacrifice to G-d ‘and they were killed, consumed by the fire’.
It is hard to believe that for such an act, one is to be punished so severely. In fact, it’s a bit confusing. Some commentaries view their act as one of the greatest bonds between G-d and man; while others view their demise due to a few character flaws. The main one was haughtiness, which resulted in consumption of wine while conducting sanctuary work. In addition this also led to them believing nobody is good enough for marriage. How do you rectify the two opinions?
Elaborating more on the flaws that the two brothers had, Rav Henoch Leibowitz, zt’l explains they were punished because they gave the impression of being interested in many women, and a caused them great pain. The women had the wishful thinking of ‘I’ll wait by the phone’ but the call never came for them. Rav Henoch asks “But they didn’t ask these women to wait! They didn’t say, ‘I’ll call you back.’ Why punish them?” He answers, “One has to be clear and say ‘I’m not interested.'” One should not create a false impression or else the girl would wait by the phone or the boy will keep on calling and it will be humiliating for both. Of course rejection has to be handled delicately but nevertheless firmly.
We are still, however, left with the question, why were Aharon’s sons punished so severely? There would be no singles scene if G-d judges us like that today!
The answer is, the reason for the harsh judgment was at the request of Nadav and Avihu themselves! But that’s insane; why in the world would you want justice if G-d will be more accepting with compassion? This can be explained with the following example: When a father is in a “justice mode” and demands much from his son, there is obviously more pressure and a higher standard is expected. If the son delivers and succeeds in the task at that high level, the father would be astonished, and say, “WOW! My boy was able to withstand my justice and live up to my demands.”
Rashi, one of the mainstream commentaries on the Torah, mentions that Nadav and Avihu were ‘sick with love for G-d’. When a gifted, smart, but young and inexperienced person has an interest in a girl, he will succeed in approaching her faster than the average person, only to get rejected right at the threshold. The Gra (commentary) explains their love toward G-d was skin deep, which didn’t develop, and a false enthusiasm was created because of their inexperienced young age. Their fearlessness, resulting from haughtiness, made them explore levels of spirituality that no man has gone before. Nadav and Avihu thought they can be judged with Din, not realizing that, because of their haughtiness, they had flaws. So any minute, any speck of negativity was magnified, therefore receiving the severe punishment.
We can clearly see there is positive and negative to being judged with strictness. On the one hand, one is going through difficult times. On the other hand the reward is tremendous and one will be highly regarded.
But be cautious! Our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov asked to be judged with strict judgement for them the reward is far greater. “Come on, bring it on, I can take it and I’ll pass the test”. Our forefather passed the test. However Nadav and Avihu were not ready. King David too asked to be tested and failed. I too, many years ago asked to be tested and failed. Out of “love for G-d” many people ask for things they are not ready for yet. They ask to be tested with strict judgement. Our tests in our lives consist of many difficulties, and some are as of result of harsh judgement – ELOKIM. But we don’t ask for these tests and we shouldn’t. It comes by itself. One should be aware between the fluctuation between name of compassionate HASHEM and the strict ELOKIM.
Therefore, some of our prayers are best suited for Rachamim and some are best suited for Gevurah (another name for harsh judgement) and in response G-d’s names, some are names of compassion some are of strict judgment, are placed accordingly.
(Shemot 14, 31) “And Israel saw the great hand, which the Lord had used upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in Moses, His servant.”
It seems like the pasuk is redundant. The first part of the verse already confirms Israelites belief in G-d. Rav Henoch Leibowitz z’tl enlightens us that the second part of the pasuk is not referring to b’nai Yisrael at all. The second half is referring to the Egyptians. How is that possible? The Egyptians drowned!!
The answer is a powerful lesson in regards to a test. We are tested till the last breath we take and we can realize our mistake even in the last moment. Rav Henoch says as the waters were closing in and the Egyptians realized that they were going to drown that was the moment they realized the hand of G-d and believed

What is the proper Jewish education for children?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Paysach Krohn, Yissachar frand, Berel Wein, , Yossi Bilius and Dr. Abba Goldman

If one ever had the privilege to have a Jewish education, one has to wonder why he is taught certain particular topics. The art and creativity is relating the Torah topics to our everyday life. So what does an educator teach? After all, our great Torah is a smorgasbord of  knowledge. It’s a sea of information which one can never get enough. Interestingly, the Jewish education system is uniformly structured purposely so our youngsters get the best enlightenment into Judaism.  For example, the Yeshivas start teaching Talmud in the fourth or fifth grade. Interestingly, they always start off with one of the BABAS. It’s either tractate Baba Kama, Baba Metzia or Baba Batra. Originally, all three formed a single tractate called Nezikin (torts or injuries), each Baba being a Part or subdivision. Baba Kamma (first gate) discusses various forms of damage and the compensation owed for them.  Baba Metzia (second gate) discusses civil matters such as property law and usury. It also examines one’s obligations to guard lost property that have been found, or property explicitly entrusted to him. Baba Batra (last gate)  deals with a person’s responsibilities and rights as the owner of property.
  There is  pride and joy in being able to figure out the Gemarah.. The grade school Rabbi puts strong emphasis on teaching the Talmud. “One has to have a Gemarah head” my father would always say.
Many years ago a group of prominent Rabbis came to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein  to discuss changes in the elementary school curriculum.  Rabbi Moshe was the leading figure of his generation and he had the final word on most topics.  At the time, he ruled on all the Jewish law topics in the United States for the Ashkenazim as well as the Sefaradim.  He was the only big game in town and everyone  abided by his rule.
 What could they possibly revise? The long grueling hours? The lunches? We and now our children spent a majority of time during the day in Yeshiva. Its an expensive undertaking on the parents, KOL HAKAVOD!! We have to ask ourselves what is the primary goal that is expected of a 4th or 5th grader?
  Let’s peak and find out what the leading Rabbis wanted to revise. They requested Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to change the curriculum of the learning Torah.
The Rabbi argued that perhaps it would be best for a 4th grader to open up for the first time a Tractate Brachot as appose to the BABBAS. Tractate Brachot discusses laws of basic beliefs, the Shema, and how to make the proper blessings. The Rabbis argued this is essential in the basic fundamental development of a knowledgeable Jew. One has to know how crucial that the proper material is presented to the students. One has to water the roots properly or else it won’t grow correctly.
  Rabbi Moshe Feinstein retorted to the Rabbis, and this is a valuable lesson to all Jews:

“Learning the BABBAS is  of the utmost importance for it shows sensitivity to ones fellow man. If a Jew is aware of anothers property, if he’s aware through the examples given by the Talmud,of negligence then he will conduct himself on a much higher respectable way towards his freind, neighbor and stranger on the street. If we ingrain these concepts at a young age then we are doing a tremendous service to society.
  An example was given by Rabbi Pesach Krohn where a young Israeli lady was exploring the world and trying different religions. She was a spiritual soul wanting to find herself and on the way LEVALOT- have a good time. Many Israelis go on these journeys after they finish the army.
On one of her stops was India where she joined a caravan of Buddhas. One day as she was walking with her Guru, mentor and they see what looks like a wallet lying in the street.
 The Guru picks up the wallet and gestures to the sky proclaiming “the G-ds have sent down this present” as a reward for my observance of the laws. A little confused and troubled, the Israeli girl asks the Guru: “Aren’t you going to open the wallet and find out who it belongs to? Perhaps there are clues on how to return the wallet to its rightfull owner”.
This is what she learned growing up from her father and religious grandfather. She was appalled at the reaction of the Guru. Returning a lost object to its rightful owner is elementary.
This week’s parsha hints at this very point.The parsha begins with the words “And these are the statutes (mishpatim) that you shall place before them.” The bulk of the parsha deals with the many laws that are categorized as “mishpatim”. These are the laws of interpersonal relationships that deal with everything from a person who damages to the various kinds of watchmen to the prohibition of taking interest on loans. A good portion of Choshen Mishpat — the section of Shulchan Aruch that deals with monetary and financial laws — are based on the pasukim in this week’s parsha.

The first Rashi in our parsha comments on the opening word “v’ayleh” [and these]. Rashi explains that wherever the Torah uses the word “ayleh” [these], the Torah is invalidating or excluding something previously mentioned. However, where the Torah uses the word “ayleh” prefixed by the conjunctive vov as in “V’eleh” then we are supplementing that which came earlier. “And these” has the connotation “not only those, but these as well.”

The application here, as Rashi explains, is that just as those (laws mentioned in Parshas Yitro, i.e. — the Asseret HaDibrot [Ten ‘Commandments’] were given at Sinai, so too, the laws mentioned in Mishpatim were also given at Sinai. The laws of Mishpatim are an integral part of Judiasm for it puts an emphasis on man’s relationship with his fellow man as well as the relationship with G-d.

To respect others and how to communicate properly is seen as front row center in the beginning of the Torah. It is as though the Torah in the two first parshiyot was in a hurry to get to Avraham and his life and tell us the achievements and struggles. The Midrash indicates that this is in fact a true analysis of the Torah’s intent when in the beginning of Bereshit it clearly indicates that the entire process of creation was enacted for the purpose of Avraham’s coming on the world scene. Avraham is the pivotal figure in human history. He is the one who raises the banner of monotheism in a fashion that can be understood and followed by millions of humans. He is also the father of goodness and kindness, compassion and sensitivity towards others as a way of life, a value system, and not merely as isolated acts of momentary compassion.
Education, education and education is emphasised with Avraham’s grandson Yaakov. Yaakov stopped at the study house of Shem and Ever for fourteen years on his flight from Eisav to his uncle’s house in Aram. This seems to be a strange stopover at first glance.

How will the instruction that he received in the school established by Shem and Ever contribute to his survival and success at the house of Lavan, the master of decieving people; he is one of a shady character? The question is phrased in a more current if blunter fashion in the Talmud itself – of what value are the Torah students to society at large?
To meet Lavan, Yaakov apparently needs to train in different forms of legal, commercial and worldly pursuits. Studying Torah is all well and fine, but how does it prepare one for the real world? This question is heard today in thousands of Jewish households and is a most vexing one. Our world today is one of Lavan compounded.
Where does Torah study and Torah knowledge fit into our milieu, into solving our problems and difficulties, in facing down our enemies? Yet, we find that on the whole Yaakov was quite successful in the house of Lavan. He acquires his wives there and his children are born and raised there. What courses of study did he take and master in the school of Shem and Ever that enabled him to so succeed?
Rabbi Berel Wein indicates that the answer lies in understanding the place and goals of a Torah education in one’s life. Most people, especially those who view it from the outside looking in, think that Torah education is purely a matter of material covered, of knowledge of facts, of understanding complex and difficult Talmudical concepts and statements. In truth it is all that but it is much more.
A proper Torah education, a study course at the school of Shem and Ever, is meant to impart life-long values and a world view in which to fit the events of one’s life in a proper and moral fashion. One has to learn how to deal effectively with Lavan but one has to be very cautious not to become Lavan in the process.
Self-defense and protection of one’s own interests is part of the Torah value system. But pleasantness, sensitivity, faith in God’s justice and promises, and a willingness to tolerate and accommodate others (even unpleasant others) are also a part of the value system of the Torah.
Yaakov enters the school of Shem and Ever to absorb the Torah value system that will allow him to survive Lavan and not to fall spiritually and become Lavan in the form of Yaakov. One of the most difficult tasks that faces Jewish society today is to remain a kingdom of priests and a holy people even when struggling with Lavan, Yishmael and Eisav for our very existence. Our schools have to teach Torah values and not be satisfied merely with knowledge, grades and test scores.
For 3,500 years, Jews have been telling themselves, their children, and the rest of the world: Be good. Be kind. Be honest. Be ethical. Be moral. It is the most revolutionary message in human history, and we are the people who were chosen to deliver it — to be, as the prophet Isaiah said, an “or lagoyim” — a light unto the nations.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made his point clear. The ruling will not change. We have to raise Jews that will become a MENCH, an ODAM then and only then they will learn in depth the other laws.


The Power of Publicity – Displaying a Kiddush Hashem

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of
Rabbi’s  Yissachar Frand, Yossi Bilius


I once asked a friend why he doesn’t wear a kippa. After all, I argued, you keep Shabbat, kashrut and the basic mitzvot. He answered “I don’t want to be scrutinized for everything I do. If I don’t have the kippa on my head, I can do whatever I want, wherever I want and whenever I want to”. In other word he is relinquishing responsibilities. That is, he is relinquishing the responsibilities of being a Jew.

Is he correct? Should we hide our Jewishness or should we display it? Of course not! We are the chosen people and have a task to show and teach the world G-dly concepts. A study was taken a number of years ago as to which nation is most frequently displayed on the front page stories of the New York Times, a leading national news circulation. With the exception of the United States, Israel and Jewish related stories came in number two after US. We are scrutinized to no end, even though we don’t ask for it. Why? Because we are Jews. So if we are in the limelight any way, why don’t we control how we are perceived; it might benefit us to act like the fine role models we are supposed to be.

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l recounted that when he was a Rabbi in Lithuania before World War 2, he was asked a question by a resident of his community. The man had purchased stamps from the local post office, and had received more stamps that he had paid for. For such a poor man, the extra stamps were no trifle matter. Nonetheless, Rav Kaminetsky suspected that perhaps the postal clerk was testing the rabbi. This suspicion was confirmed a short time later when the clerk gave him too much change. The rabbi returned the extra money. Many years after the Nazis came and destroyed the community, the rabbi heard that this clerk had saved many Jews, testifying that he tested everybody to assess their honesty, the only trustworthy people were the Jews! This teaches us that in addition to the obligation to be honest and avoid thievery, a Jew must be extra vigilant to bring about a Kiddush Hashem.
The Gemara [Bava Metziah 87a] describes that Avraham made a party to mark the occasion of the weaning of Yitzchak, to which he invited all the great men of the generation. Avraham Avinu was not just a private citizen. He was society’s primary proponent of monotheism. He rejected the pagan idols of the rest of the world and proclaimed the existence of a Master of the Universe.

Avraham Avinu wanted to sanctify the Name of G-d (Kiddush Hashem) and publicize the great miracle that G-d did for him. Avraham made this big celebration for just that purpose, but the cynics that were sitting there were having a field day. They joked that Yitzchak could not possibly be Avraham’s child. Sarah must have become pregnant from Avimelech. “She lived many decades with Avraham and had not become pregnant from him. ” We all know how it goes: A roll of the eyes, a twist of the nose, a mocking smile.

Even though Avraham fathered a child with Hagar, cynicism does not need to be precise or accurate. The effect of a “one-liner” is basically that of a pin. In just one moment, the balloon bursts. The “press” will write it up. The fact that anyone with intelligence who thinks about this for 30 seconds will recognize it as nonsense is irrelevant. The damage has already been done. Such is the power of leitzanut – mockery.

In response, G-d made a miracle, and made Yitzchak’s face look exactly like Avraham’s. Why did G-d respond in such a miraculous fashion to counteract this false type of mocking?

Who cares what these idiots say. One can simply say “I’m bigger then that. I don’t need to respond.” However, allowing this “momentary bursting” of the “balloon of Kiddush Hashem” would have defeated Avraham’s entire purpose in making the party. Thus, G-d needed to make a miracle to restore the inspirational nature of this festive meal.
We see a powerful example from this week’s Parsha. At the end of the Parsha, Bo, we have a Mitzvah to “Sanctify for Me (G-d) all the first born…” [Shemot 13:2] The first born of human beings and animals are holy to G-d. Why? Because G-d passed over Egypt on the night of Pesach and killed the first born of the Egyptians while sparing the first born of Israel. Is that a reason for the first born to be invested with a holiness which lasts until today?

The answer can be found is an interesting letter which Rabbi Yissachar Frand obtained from Rav Simcha Zissel from Kelm to Baron Rothschild. Rabbi Frand frequently quotes Rav Simcha Zissel. Baron Rothschild, as we all know, was a fantastically wealthy person who put his money to good use. He helped thousands and thousands of Jews. The Alter from Kelm writes the following to Baron Rothschild:

“I want to express my gratitude to you for all the generous and kind acts, which you have done for the entire Jewish people. Do not suspect, Heaven forbid, that I am coming with my own request for funds. However, in my humble opinion, I have to express my sense of gratitude for all that you have done to help the Jewish people. You are a person who stands before Kings and nevertheless you do not forget from where you came, and therefore maintain your support for Jewish needs. This is a great Sanctification of G-d’s Name and your reward is very great. Based on legal obligation (al pi din), I feel I have to express my thanks, honor, and appreciation to such an individual and to such a Sanctification of G-d’s name.”

Then the Alter from Kelm continues… “Think for a minute. The Halacha was to have been that the First Born was to have done the Service in the Temple. Had it not been for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Bechorim [first born] would have served G-d in the Beis HaMikdash, instead of the Kohanim. Why? Because they were passed over on that night of Pesach. As a result, until this very day there is sanctity of the first born. Not only does this sanctity apply to the first born of a human, but even to the first born of an animal.”

Rav Simcha Zissel asks, “Why? What did the Bechorim do, that made them holy?” They were merely passive. They were born first and therefore were saved by G-d, when He killed the first born. So what? What did the first born do that would have made them holier than a regular person, and fit for the Temple Service until this very day?

Rav Simcha Zissel answers, that they participated — albeit passively — in a Sanctification of G-d’s Name. When G-d, in his Own Glory came into Egypt and killed the Egyptian first born while sparing the Jewish first born, that was a tremendous Kiddush HaShem. That may have been the greatest manifestation of G-d’s power, up to that that point in history.

The first born, passively aided and abetted this great Kiddush HaShem. A person who even passively helps to create a Sanctification of G-d’s name, has a very great reward… to the extent that even today a first born is holy. Why? Because thousands of years ago the Bechorim ‘helped’ make a Kiddush HaShem.

“If this is the reward for a person who passively helps in a Kiddush Hashem, how can we begin to contemplate,” says the Alter from Kelm, “what the reward is of a person that actively goes and makes a Kiddush Hashem?”

“Therefore, you, Baron Rothschild, considering who you are and what you have done, have actively and publicly Sanctified G-d’s Name. Therefore, the greatest honor, respect and sense of Hakarat HaTov is due to you, merely by virtue of this fact.”

This is the lesson from the parsha of Bechor. Even passively helping create a Kiddush HaShem is a tremendous zechut [merit]. How much more of a Kiddush HaShem are we creating, when, in our daily lives, the way we act, the way we talk, the way we negotiate, the way we deal in business and the way we act among people –Jew and non-Jew alike — Sanctifies G-d’s Name?

If we use opportunities to go out of our way to make that Kiddush HaShem; if we say that extra “Good Morning,” if we are assiduously honest; if we go the extra mile to make that Kiddush Hashem so that they can say about us “You are my Servant, Israel, through whom I will be Glorified” [Yeshaya 49:3]; that they can say upon us “How pleasant are his ways” [Talmud Yoma 86a]; how beautiful are the ways of a religious Jew; then, as the Alter from Kelm writes, our reward will be very great.
There are times when one does a mitzvah to the fullest with the deepest commitment and through his action brings out Kiddush Hashem. I would like to illuminate such a case with a fellow named Rabbi Yosef Gutfarb. Rabbi Yosef was a New Yorker who moved to Jerusalem, Israel. He made an undertaking that he will always pray with a minyan.

We Jews pray 3 times a day and the optimal prayer conducted is with a minyan, which consists of at least 10 men present. Kadish may also only be recited in the presence of 10 men.

It can be quite challenging for one to get up early in the morning, in the heat or cold, and attend prayer services.

What is dedication?

What does it mean to pass a tough test?

If someone enters a freezing cold car at 6:15 in the morning, in the dead of winter, just to get to minyan; now that’s dedication!! Mankind has not figured out an inexpensive way to have the car heating system working so that it’s hot intently. No one looks forward for the car in the early morning experience. It is equally challenging to pry yourself from the middle of an important business transactions and attend the afternoon services. One can get really involved in their career. Furthermore, evening services are not any easier after a long and hard day at work. Nevertheless Rabbi Yosef soldiered his way through three decades, whether on business trips all around the world or any sort of unexpected pop-ups; he did not miss a beat of Kadish or one amen of a minyan!!…Talk about longevity!! Hmm, did someone give Rabbi Yosef the evil eye?

One night Rav Yosef came home after 3:00am and he had not yet prayed the evening services. Since in Shaufat the last minyan is at 11:00pm he calculated he would go to the next town over to search for a minyan. He was confident he would catch one in Zichron Moshe where there was a shul (Bet Hakneset) there, known to be a minyan factory. A minyan factory is a place where there are rooms throughout the building, where there is always a minyan at any time of day or night; how convenient is that?

Well mazal was a little difficult that night and to his dismay only one other person was waiting. “Do you think anybody else will come?” he inquisitively asked.

“Why are you saying Kadish? Are you an Avel-mourning the loss of a loved one?” the man questioned.

“No, I just made a commitment many years ago to not to miss a minyan” he replied. “How could this be? There is always a minyan here!” he nervously thought. What to do? What to do?

“I got it!!”

Rav Yosef then called a taxi company and asked if eight cabs can come to Zichron Moshe Shul (Bet Hakneset). “Only Israeli drivers” he added emphatically.

The dispatcher retorted back, “I don’t have eight taxies at three in the morning.”

“How many do you have?” Rav Yosef asked. “Only five” the dispatcher replied.

“Fine, send them quickly please: don’t forget only Israeli drivers!!”

Rav Yosef called another taxi company and asked for three Israeli drivers. The dispatcher said they would come in a few minutes.
The eight cabs all lined up and got out of their cars thinking they came at a tail end of some kind of party. To their dismay they found only Rabbi Yosef and the gentleman.

Rav Yosef told the drivers to turn off their cars and enter the shul “we’re going to pray the evening services, I need a minyan”. He explained his strange appeal by saying, “I haven’t missed a minyan in

The drivers, surprised but intrigued, obliged to the bizarre request.

They all could read Hebrew but not all were familiar with the protocol of tefila -prayer. Some had kippas-skull caps in their pockets, some in their glove compartment in their taxies.

After the prayer Rav Yosef took out his wallet to pay the drivers.

All the drivers, one by one refused to take the money. They were all stunned by the audacity of this American Jew who went to great lengths to fulfill his commitment for the sake of praying with a minyan. So impressed by the 15 minute prayer, many of the drivers thanked Rav Yosef for an uplifting spiritual experience. Many told him they have never had such a strong feeling when they prayed like this one time. Some said they haven’t prayed in a while and were honored to participate. They were all glad to have the opportunity to pray with such a person.

That’s a Kiddush Hashem and, more importantly, that’s the power of a Kiddush Hashem.

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.


Why is 13 the age of bar mitzvah?

Why is 13 the age of bar mitzvah?

Receiving the Torah is no simple matter. You have to be ready. You have to believe that he can take the responsibility, you have to believe that you can take on the task of the 613 commandments; it’s important to believe in yourself that you can do it no matter what!! Otherwise, without that “vote of confidence” within you, your resolve will just wither away. You have to say: I was born a Jew and therefore it is ingrained in me to perform what is required, to receive and pass the tradition of our ancestors.

In this week’s parsha we see how G-d injects that vote of confidence to his people. Just fifty days prior to the giving of the Torah, they were slaves. They had no self-worth. It is a tremendous psychologically hurdle to ‘jump’ from the lowest part of society to the highest, to be the “king of the hill”, to reach the point where every nation is looking at you in awe and fear. Yet, G-d does it. How did G-d bolster their vote of confidence?

(Shemot 19, 6) “You shall be to me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation.” G-d is elevating them from slaves to kings. When a person see’s himself as “significant”, then he will be more confident and thus accept the Torah. This past week our family celebrated the bar mitzvah of our oldest son Yaacov. Similarly, just like our ancestors made the significant jump in accepting the Torah and all the trimmings of being a Jew, a bar mitzvah boy also accepts responsibility in accepting the Torah, mitzvot and all the trimmings of being a Jew.

But there is a looming question. Why is 13 the age where one crosses the threshold of taking on such responsibilities? Does a bar mitzvah boy have the self-confidence to take upon himself the commandments?
Let us explore this concept. The age 13 is around the time when most young adults typically begin to physically mature and reach puberty. Additionally, when a boy turns 13, they are considered to have reached the “age of maturity,” a time when they have developed enough understanding to be responsible for their actions. Therefore, he is called bar mitzvah, which literally means a “son of the commandment,” or a “man obligated to do mitzvahs,” since he is now responsible for keeping the Torah and its mitzvoth. Some explain that, like most other halachic measurements (Jewish law), the fact that the age of maturity is 13 is simply an oral tradition that G d imparted to Moses on Mount Sinai (commonly called Halachah L’Moshe MiSinai).2

There is, in fact, another source from where we know the origin of when maturity, and self-confidence with it, kicks in. The age of da’at-the ability to make decisions is derived from Genesis 34:25, in the Torah’s account of the destruction of the city of Shechem by Shimon and Levi, two of the twelve tribes, in retaliation for the rape of their sister, Dinah. The verse reads: “On the third day… Jacob’s two sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each man took his sword, and confidently attacked the city…” The term “man” (ish) is used to refer to both brothers, the younger of whom, Levi, was exactly thirteen years old at the time.1 Thus we derive that the Torah considers a male of thirteen years to be a “man.”2

However this is a strange way to derive the laws of maturity, patience, and knowledge. Shimon and Levi’s act seems hardly the best example of da’at; Yaacov denounced their actions.3 4 Yaacov’s disproval was amplified when at his deathbed he proclaimed. “Let my soul not enter their council….Their anger is mighty….I will separate them”. This was a harsh statement which Yaccov conveyed to his sons. Yet this is the event that the Torah chooses to teach us the age of reason, maturity, responsibility and commitment to the fulfillment of the mitzvot! Does that make sense?!

We know from life’s experiences that nothing is what it seems. Their actions, although brutal for Jewish standards, while not outwardly approved, received much support among the commentaries and, for that matter, the Torah itself. Yaacov himself did not actually denounce their act, he merely disapproved at the way they did it. Remarkably if we read the verses carefully, the Torah describes a positive reason for their action when we are told “they were distressed” the Torah adds “because an abomination had been done in Israel”. In regard to the trickery, the Torah adds “because he had defiled their sister”. And it notes the same thing in regard to their looting. And as to Yaacov, who complained that they were too hasty, the Torah ends with Levi and Shimon’s reply to Yaacov being “Shall our sister then be made a harlot!”. These statements all come to stress that where there is chillul Hashem – disgrace of G-d, one does not take into account one ‘s subjective matters.
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsh strengthens this idea further “Had we not been Jews, the inhabitants of the land would have never permitted themselves to act this way! Only to respect to the Jews do they think everything is permissible and that they can do whatever they want without fear and punishment”

Or Hachaim adds “On the contrary, we will be in greater danger among the nations if they see a single despicable person rule over the daughter of Yaacov and did as he wishes and desired. Now that we responded, the nations will be petrified and will fear us” The Lubavitcher Rebbi answers: As Shimon and Levi replied to Jacob5, the situation that prompted their action did not allow them the luxury of rational consideration, or of its consequences. The integrity of Israel was at stake, and the brothers of Dinah could give no thought to their own person–not to the jeopardy of their physical lives, or to the jeopardy of their spiritual selves by the violence and impropriety of their deed. In the end, their instinctive reaction, coming from the deepest place in their souls–deeper than reason, deeper than all self-consideration–was validated; G d approved their deed and came to their assistance”.6

Now that we have validated the brothers’ actions, let us attempt to understand the nature of Shechem. In so doing we will understand why 13 is the age of self-confidence.

Every word in the Hebrew language is not just a label, but describes the essence of its subject. The word shechem means “segment” or “portion” describes both the person shechem and the place. Each person in Shechem wanted his own portion in life to be significant and not just part of a larger entity. Shechem was a place that influenced its dwellers and those who came traveled to and through it its perimeters would feel that heighten importance and worthiness.
This trait heralds tremendous power. It could be the greatest and worst of all attributes. On the good side the individual is exhorted by Chazzal “the whole world was created just for him”. The feeling of personal worth in this content is extremely valuable in the mitzvah system especially one entering Torah and mitzvoth!! The down side is, however, one can be very destructive. A person who misuses this characteristic becomes completely self-oriented; he feels he must stand up for his principles whatever cost. Arrogance is his game he becomes completely beyond any rebuke or correction. This is the age, bar mitzvah, when one enters da’at-knowledge where it’s vital for a boy to develop a strong sense of personal worth. It’s an age where one leaves the toys behind and starts to appreciate adult topics. For the most part, it’s a very vulnerable time and a jolt of confidence, a jolt of Shechem is needed to build self-confidence, self-esteem to formulate a healthy adult mind. These are the tools that a young adult needs to go out in this world, to do mitzvoth, to be a someone, and to make for himself a portion.

Freedom of Choice
            King David was quoted as praising Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, as a very smart man who has a tremendous insight into G-d and was able to fully comprehend the miraculous events that occurred to the Israelites. This was evident by some of the definitions of his seven names, in which Rashi and many commentaries say he was called by. What was it about Yitro, which impressed David and warranted such praise?
              It’s only natural in a successful marriage that more and more matrimonial matches spurt up between the two sides; Moshe’s nephew, Elazar, marries one of Yitro’s daughters. But what’s odd when we are introduced and informed of the union, is Rashi’s description of Potiel, the father of the bride, Yitro’s other name; he describes a man “who fattened calves for idolatry” and “from the seed of Yosef who conquered his passion”. Now I understand the compliment of the comparison to Yosef, that’s very nice; however, why bring up “he fattened calves”? It’s very demeaning not just for Yitro but for Elazar as well. One can only imagine the mazal tov section of the weekly Synagogue newsletter stating ‘Mr. and Mrs. Potiel, the ones who fattened calves for idolatry.’ It doesn’t have a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
              In this week’s Parsha, our ancestors received the Torah and we read the Ten Commandments. One has to ask, why did G-d emphasize these ten as opposed too many others he could have mentioned? Furthermore, G-d wanted to give it to the other nation as well; but His reply to their question of what’s in it, always played on their weakness. For example, to the Arabs he emphasized ‘do not steal’; to Edom, ‘do not kill’; G-d knew perfectly well that it would be difficult for them.
              Rabbi Oelbaum says that the fundamental importance of the Torah is to enable us to overcome and do the opposite of our nature, to break the one aspect of our personality that we have a tough time overcoming. This is the primary goal of life.
               Perhaps this is what G-d intended when approaching the nations and asking, are you ready to accept for real, and therefore you would have to eradicate stealing or murder or what ever weakness one has.
                Rav Eliyahu Lopian teaches an important awareness of freedom of choice. This is an important aspect of man. However, one should know the definition of freedom of choice is not that one can do whatever he wants. If that was so, what is man’s superiority over animals? They too can do whatever they want. The definition of freedom of choice is that he’s able to choose himself and go against his nature, against his natural instincts and animals cannot do this.
             Perhaps this is the greatness of Yitro; his weakness was idol worship to an extent where he couldn’t control himself. However, he was able to persevere and see G-d where many couldn’t. We must bring another definition of Potiel and that is ‘sheniftar me-avoda-zara’, he was able to disassociate, break off from idol worship.
              These Ten Commandments were chosen because they are the fundamental building blocks of the Torah, of life. If we strengthen our character traits and not get sucked in like a magnet, we would have done our duty and we would be able to exercise our true freedom of choice.

“Take out the garbage!!” sure honey, anything for you.


This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Yissachar Frand, Yossi bilus, Asher Hurzberg, Artscrol Siddur

What’s that old comedian’s name?  That Jewish comedian who had a wonderfully brilliant routine of a Jewish mega-CEO who commanded the respect of many within his circles. Many would “yes sir” him and “no sir” him; they would address him “good morning sir”;   they would melt in fright if he would just look in their direction for it might imply a mistake that they, G-d forbid, haddone. However, when he arrives home he would be belittled by his wife for forgetting to take out the garbage that morning. “You didn’t forget to put on your pants this morning! How can you forget to take out the garbage?! The house stinks because of you! You’re not entering this house unless the garbage disappears from my eyes. You’re not the idiot! I’m the idiot for marrying you,” the wife continues “because no one else would’ve done it!” We see how this well respected man is suddenly humiliated. Yet for shalom bayit – peace in the house, he doesn’t answer back. What a transformation from a lion at work to a tormented mouse at home!
This week’s Parsha contains the mitzvah of offering the Korban Olah [Burnt Offering]. Aharon and his children were given the tremendous responsibility of the Service of the Temple. The first and foremost task that Aharon and his children are instructed to perform is the mitzvah of Terumat HaDeshen — the removal of the ashes that were consumed by the previous night’s fire on top of the Mizbayach [altar].
A question arises? Did they need to? Why couldn’t others perform that remedial task? It’s similar to cleaning the grill. Why should the chef have to trouble himself? Surely Aharon had better things to do?!
The Chovas Halevovos [Duties of the Heart], written by R. Bachye Ibn Paquda; 11th century Spain, one of the defining works on ethics and mussar – that is self-improvement and refining of character; says that the rationale behind this is that the Torah is particularly careful that people do not let things go to their heads, lest they become ba’alei ga’avah (haughty). It would only be natural for Aharon to consider himself special. He was one of the select few who had the merit of performing the Temple Service! Nevertheless, the Torah instructed him that the first thing that he must do every morning is — remove the ashes! The function of this job, according to the Chovot Halevovot, is to lower the self-image of the Kohanim and remove haughtiness from their hearts.
Interesting! Look how a man thinks, just one little complement, one pat on the back and it can goes long way. Even the most pious can fall prey to feeling haughty. We’re all susceptible to sprouting up like roosters, sucking up every bit of glory and declaring “Look at me; look at what I’ve done; look at my accomplishments.”
When the Jews, our Ancestors, entered the Promised Land they were warned that if they had a propensity for haughtiness and arrogance (called Gasut haRuach), they would pay the price for G-d will place a tzaraat-affliction upon their house that was in “the land of your possession.” This affliction would look like special colored spots on the walls of the house. Ironically, it seems that today we have instant gratification, whereas back then they had instant punishment. Seems like good behavior was a necessity, or else. They always had to be on their tipi toes: the margin of error didn’t exist. G-d would inflict them where it hurts the most. What’s the old saying “a man’s home is his castle.”?
The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying: Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house. (k’negah nireh li b’bayit)” [Vayikra 14:34-35] Rashi points out that even a Torah scholar who knows full well that what he has seen is certainly tzaraat affliction, may only tentatively state “something appearing like an affliction has developed on the wall of my house.”
We are trying to teach the person a lesson: Don’t be so sure of yourself. You cannot definitely state “It is a Nega – affliction.” You should state the facts with less confidence and self-assurance. Leave your declaration at “Something like a Nega has appeared on my house.”
‘You got yourself into this trouble by being too sure of yourself. Forget the fact that you spent the last 25 years studying the Laws of Tzaraat. Don’t be so cocky. The Tikun [antidote] to self-assurance is to retain some doubt about the correctness of your diagnosis. Say only “K’nega nireh li babayit – there may be Nega in my house.”
One of the components of the purification ritual for the afflicted house is Eizov, a kind of moss, which is dipped into the blood of the slaughtered bird as part. Rashi quoting Chazal explains that this is because moss is a very low lying growth. We are sending the person a message that his problem resulted from an overabundance of arrogance and haughtiness. We are telling him “You have to start acting more like the Eizov.”
The Sefat Emet asks a simple question. Why doesn’t the Kohen just come out and say that directly to the person: “You are too haughty!” Why is this message delivered so obliquely with this Eizov ingredient in the bird purification ritual? Why are we beating around the bush – ahem – moss for? Let’s tell him “You are a Baal Gayvah – a haughty person you had this coming to you! Start acting more humbly and your problems will go away!” We do not do this. We deliver the message with extreme subtlety. Why?
The Sefat Emet answers that you cannot preach humility. Humility must be self-generated and self-inspired. Preaching the value of humbleness to a haughty person will fall on deaf ears. He needs to come to this realization on his own. We try to send him messages that will cause him to introspect and inspire him to think “What have I been doing wrong?” He should think – why is it that out of all the plants in the world, they bring me moss? Hopefully, this will trigger the inspiration that must come from within — that it would be wise to be a bit more humble in the future.

There is a famous story which illustrates this point. Rav Chatzkel Abramsky, zt”l, once needed to testify in a case in which the Beis Din of London was sued by a shochet [ritual slaughterer] who had been fired. As the head of the Beis Din, Rav Abramsky had no choice, but to testify in secular court. His attorney asked him to state his name and his position. The attorney then asked, “Is it true that you are the greatest living halachic authority on the European continent?” Rav Abramsky said, “Yes. That is true.”A person who denies his own identity and talents is not humble. He is deceiving himself. An ‘anav’ [humble person] can know precisely who he is.
At that point the judge interjected and said, “Rabbi Abramsky, is that not rather haughty on your part? I thought that your laws and ethics teach you to be humble.” Without any hesitation, Rav Abramsky responded, “I know we are taught to be humble. But I am under oath.”
The point of this story is that Rav Chatzkel Abramsky was aware that he was the greatest living halachic authority on the European continent. Recognition of his true status was not haughtiness. However to flaunt it is haughtiness.
What then is the key to humility? The key to humility is to remember that whatever a person has and is, is a gift from Heaven. “It is not my strength and the power of my hand that has wrought me this great wealth” It is not my brains. It is not my talents. It isnot innate. It is all a blessing from G-d.” A person remains humble by realizing and remembering that all of his achievements in this world are only through the good graces of G-d, and that he can lose them at any minute, G-d forbid.
There is a famous Mishneh at the end of Maseches Sotah that states that when Rebbi (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, the editor of the Mishneh) died, humility ceased. Rav Yosef in the Gemara questions this Mishneh and says that it could not possibly be accurate “For I am here”. This comment of Rav Yosef begs for clarification.
There is a beautiful homiletic interpretation of this Talmudic passage. Rav Yosef was not saying, “I am humble. Therefore there are humble people around.” He was saying something else. We learn elsewhere that Rav Yosef became blind. When he became blind, he forgot all his learning. This great Amora, Rav Yosef, whose opinion is found on so many folios of Shas, who learned so much, who taught so much — this same Rav Yosef forgot it all after his illness.
Rav Yosef is saying is the following: “Do not say that there cannot be humble people around anymore — because I am around. As long as I am around, people can look at me and see what can happen to a person. Let them see that a person can be an Amora, know all of the Mishnayot, have hundreds of students and yet forget it all. If people bear that in mind, then there can still be humble people. For the key to humility is realizing that everything is a gift that can be lost at any time.”
My wife told over this unforgettable story which has made an impression on me ever since. There was a well-respected woman who attended a wedding and unfortunately at the wedding she was berated and humiliated by another woman that even the men on the other side of the mechitza – partitioned wall – were able to hear the yelling. The woman doing the yelling was obviously having issues and was not able to cope so well with her current developing problems. The woman who was the victim did not utter a word; she did not respond even though some of the accusations said were very personal and should have been kept quiet. This is because another woman ran to the well-respected woman and pleaded not to respond. Afterwards, the other woman asked that the well-respected woman give her a bracha. The woman was childless, and had been advised by a Rav to receive a bracha from “one who is humiliated in public and doesn’t talk back”. One who gets embarrassed is humbled immensely. Note however, that one does have to have self-dignity and protect himself, however they also have to know where the humiliation is coming from and give a carefully measured response. And, at times, a response might not be appropriate at all.
Who is a humble person? A humble person is someone who is well aware that G-d runs the show so he or in this case she possesses special merits that when she says something the heavens above will listen.
The Diamond Dairy restaurant was in the heart of the Jewelry industry. It was tremendously convenient, for yours truly, for my office was above the restaurant in the same building. One afternoon I looked around while I was having a late lunch and there he was, the famous Jewish comedian, sitting there having a meal.  He would frequently come to Diamond Dairy for it reminded many of the old European Jews of their childhood favorite dishes. I walked over to him after he finished his lunch and complemented him on his very humorous impersonation of the Kennedys and on his “take out the garbage” routine.
He said to me “You know nowadays it’s even more difficult. These husband have such complicated jobs but they can’t figure out what goes into recycle.” I asked “So, what’s the solution Mr. Maza?” Mr. Maza, the comedian winked and said, “You have to swallow your pride and tip them well at the end of December.”


Why is Monday and Thursday designated Torah reading days?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Yonatan Zweig, Yossi Bilus.

Our son, b’sha’a tova, is having is hanachat tefillin on Thursday. The  ceremony for bar mitzva boys is held either on a Monday or on a  Thursday. These are the days that we read the Torah, as well as  putting on tefillin. What is the reason we read the Torah on those  designated days? Why not Wednesdays and Sunday? If you do it on  Wednesdays, one can then have a free Carvel Sunday after the tefilah.
 There are various reasons why Monday and Thursday were chosen to join  Shabbat as the designated Torah reading days. One such reason is that  these days were picked because Monday and Thursday were traditionally  days that the Jews would go to the nearest towns to shop. Therefore,  Ezra the Sofer instituted the public Torah reading to draw large  crowds of businessmen into the synagogue for they’re in the vicinity.

Another reason the commentators in the Talmud add is that the choice  of Monday and Thursday have additional significance since Moshe  received the second set of Tablets when he ascended Mount Sinai on the  last Monday in the Jewish month of Av, and came down on Thursday, 10  Tishrei (which is also Yom Kippur). [Interestingly, my background is  from Buckharian decent. Although I can trace my genealogy nine  generations from the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, I also have  relatives in a city called Dushanbe. Dushanbe means Tuesday. The city  was created for many businessmen who would come on this day to this  place to do trade.]
 But perhaps the most significant reason is as follows: Maimonides  writes in his Mishneh Torah, in the Laws of Prayer (Chapter 12, Law  1):
 Moses, our teacher, ordained that the Jews should read the Torah  publicly on the Sabbath and on Monday and Thursday mornings, so the  [people] would never have three days pass without hearing the Torah.  Ezra [the Scribe] ordained that [the Torah] should be read during the  Minchah service on the Sabbath, because of the shopkeepers. He also  ordained that on Mondays and Thursdays, three people should read [from  the Torah], and that they should read no fewer than ten verses.
 This idea that the Jewish people should never go three days without  hearing Torah is explained in the Talmud in Bava Kama 82b where it  quotes Exodus 15:22: “And they travelled three days without finding  water,” and explains: Water refers to the Torah, as [implied by Isaiah  55:1]: “May all the thirsty go to the water.” Since they travelled  three days without Torah, they complained. The prophets among them  arose and ordained that they read Torah on the Sabbath, refrain from  reading on Sunday, read on Monday, refrain from reading on Tuesday and  Wednesday, read on Thursday, and refrain from reading on Friday, so  that they will not spend three days without reading from the Torah.
 The Sefer HaChinuch, in the introduction to his classic work, writes  that the essential idea behind the institution of public Torah Reading  is Limmud HaTorah, the study of Torah. The Torah is our lifeblood and  contains within it all the mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew needs to  know about and to fulfill. It is therefore imperative that we hear a  small part of the weekly Torah portion read during the week so that we  don’t go three days without some Torah study, and that we hear the  entire weekly Torah portion read each Shabbat as well so that we will  have heard the entire Torah read at least once a year.
 This puts a whole different spin on this often misunderstood and  seemingly ‘tedious’ religious ritual. What we are actually supposed to  be doing as we sit in the synagogue listening to the chanting of the  Torah is to hear and study the stories and the laws contained in each  Torah portion.
 In fact, in Talmudic times when most Jews in Babylon (modern-day Iraq)  read and understood Aramaic better than Hebrew, the Rabbis actually  set up a meturgamon, or interpreter, who would stand at the Bimah  (podium) next to the Baal Korei (the person chanting the Torah) and  who would translate each verse from the original Hebrew into Aramaic,  so that the people would be able to understand the Torah reading and  learn from it.
 Apparently, this is a question that many ask and I saw something  fascinating written by Rabbi Zweig quoting the Baalei Hatosfot who  asks: There are other combinations of days that could accomplish the  same goal, why Monday and Thursdays, specifically?
 The Midrash relates that the Shabbat complained to G-d, “Each day of  the week has a mate, the first to the fourth, the second to the fifth,  the third to the sixth. Every day, except for me.” G-d responded to  Shabbat: “Bnei Yisroel will be your mate.” That’s a very cute Medrash.  Actually, to be honest, I never found it cute. I actually found it a  bit corny; too cutesy for me. However, I’m smart enough to realize  that, of course, there is a lot more to the statement. Our Torah is  very deep. The more I delved into various subjects the more I realized  how much I don’t know. The cutesy remark is a mere front for something  more deep. One can bet their bottom dollar that the following hunch  yours truly has is correct. What is the notion of a day having a mate?  What are the mates of the other days of the week?
 The Rambam teaches that everything in creation was formed from four  basic elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Analysis of Creation  reveals one of the four elements to be predominant on each day. On  Sunday, G-d created light, which is essentially the element of fire.  Monday brought the creation of the sky, which the Torah describes as a  separation of waters. Clearly, water is the dominant element. On  Tuesday, dry land with its vegetation was created; this is the element  of earth. The cycle is then repeated; on Wednesday, G-d made two large  lights to rule by day and by night, again the element of fire. On  Thursday, all swimming and flying creatures were created, which were,  according to the Talmud, generated from the very water itself. Friday  issued forth the creation of animals, followed by man, both of whom  emerged from the earth. Hence, man was called Adam, from the word  “adamah”, which means “earth”.
 The Midrash is teaching that, just as everything in this world is  produced by a male-female union, the elements themselves which G-d  used for Creation have male and female properties as well; these  properties combine to produce the creations in which they play a  predominant role. Sunday – Wednesday was the union which produced  creations that are anchored by the element of fire. Similarly, Monday  – Thursday produced creations which consist primarily of water.  Tuesday and Friday introduced the earth-based creations. As kids in  Yeshiva we often heard the comparison our Rebbes make Torah to water.  This is one of the famously catch phrase in our Jewish knowledge  vocabulary. Now, we see how Monday and Thursday makes sense for Torah  reading. The two days selected were the ones on which the element of  water was dominant.
 The only element not accounted for is “ru’ach” – “air”. This element  is the most spiritual of the four, which is apparent from the verses  themselves: At the onset of Creation, G-d’s presence was described as  “ru’ach Elokim”. In His creative mode G-d is described as “ruach”. It  is therefore most appropriate that “ru’ach” is dominant on Shabbat,  for it is the union between Bnei Yisroel and Shabbat which generates  the sanctity that permeates the remaining days of the week and give  them their existence.
 On Wednesday morning we recite the verse “lechu neranena” at the end  of the Psalm of the day. It is not coincidental that this verse also  introduces our Friday night liturgy, for Shabbos generates the energy  for the rest of the days of the week. The first three days derive  their energy from the Shabbat which has passed and the next three days  from the upcoming Shabbat. We therefore recite the verses of the  Shabbat liturgy at the end of Wednesday’s Psalm of the week for we are  entering the portion of the week which is influenced by the next  Shabbat
Now we an entirely new view of all the days of the week, and their  respective strengths. Monday-Thursday is water, and Sunday-Wednesday  is fire, Tuesday-Friday earth, these are true mates, for they are  similar. There is no corniness at all, just a deep understanding of  the days of the week.
 1.Bava Kama. 82a 2.Ibid 3.Bereishis Rabbah 11:9 4.Yad Yesodei HaTorah

3:10 5.Chullin 27b 6.Bereishis 2:11 7.Ibid 1:2

Why is the new year of trees  celebrated in the dead of winter when the trees are lifeless?
The book Ziv HaMinhagim gives a beautiful explanation of this linkage. Tu B’Shvat is the Rosh HaShanah of trees. Look outside today and gaze at the trees. They appear deader than door nails! Is this the time to celebrate “The New Year for Trees?” There is not a leaf to be seen. It would seem more appropriate to celebrate “Tu B’Shvat” in the springtime when the trees are in full bloom — April or May.
The answer is that the trees LOOK dead. They LOOK like they will never see another green leaf in their existence. But right now the sap is beginning to run within them. If one travels up to Vermont — the Maple syrup capital of the world — he will find Vermonters dressed up in earmuffs boring holes in trees to extract the sap from the maple trees. This is the time of the year when the sap is flowing within the trees. The leaves and the beauty of the fruits that the trees will produce in the spring and summer are all being prepared right now, in the dead of winter. The trees represent the idea that even when something looks terribly bleak and looks like it has no future, one should not give up on it. One should not give up on the trees when they look like that, and one should not give up on oneself when things look like that for him.
There are periods in a person’s life when the future looks bleak and things look miserable all around. “What will be?” But the salvation of the L-rd comes in the blink of an eye! The Almighty is already “running the sap” so to speak so that salvation may come. For this reason Tu B’Shvat is celebrated in the dead of wint

Taking advantage of our youth through the eyes of the Cherubim

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yissachar Frand, Akiva Tatz, Baruch Dopelt , Yossi Bilus, Asher Hurzberg and Dr. Abba Goldman

One of the strangest phenomena in our Torah are the Cherubim. These are angels resembling young children. In the innermost chamber of G-d’s temple, the place He calls “Holy of Holies,” G-d tells us to make two golden figurines with wings, one a male, the other a female. Some commentaries say they were one boy, and one man. The reason for this is because the Ark in the Holy Temple housed the “marriage document” binding G-d to His people. Who could be trusted to guard this seminal manuscript? The Cherubim!!

There is seemingly nothing more bizarre than this: G-d tells us He despises idols — and He wants us to despise them, as well. He says, “Don’t even think of making idols. If idols come to your hands, burn them, destroy them, uproot them. Give your lives rather than give any credence to those idols.” Meanwhile, these Cherubim certainly give the appearance of idols!

It gets even stranger, when we would be at odds with G-d and He with us, these two would face away from one another, back to back. But when the two of us would be in harmony, the temple priests would open the curtains and show us the two figurines entwined in embrace. And they would say, “See how cherished you are by your G-d.” It really is an odd way to display the closeness between the Jews and the Master of the Universe. But that’s exactly what it conveys. Perhaps we can say it’s just an indicator how we are perceived by G-d and therefore we then can make the necessary arrangement for repentance. So it’s not idol worship at all. Nevertheless, there is a looming question as to why Cherubim have the appearance they have, and why they are in such an important place in the Temple.

There’s even a common thread between the explanation for the Cherubim and my long association with the Diamond district on 47th street. It involves an old man who retired a few years before I left the business. He worked for a Jewelry company called Zolands, which I sold merchandise to for many years. From my earliest years of working in the industry, this old man always called me “kid”.

To give a firm explanation for the Cherubim, let us first probe into what the Cherubim that adorn the top of the Aron represent?

Rabbi Yissachar Frand learns from the writings of the Chatam Sofer, that the Cherubim represent Torah scholars. Interesting. Why is it that those who study Torah are represented by the child-like figures of the Cherubim?

If we had to come up with a symbol for Talmidei Chachomim-Torah scholars, we would not pick child-like images, would we? We would be more likely pick images of adults with long, gray or better yet white, beards. The Lubavecher Rebbe and Rav Shach come to mind. There you go, they would make great Cherubim!! Why did the Torah chose to symbolize Talmidei Chachomim with child-like faces?

Let’s explore a very interesting concept which will shed light on our topic.
I remember a warm breeze passing through my childhood home in Rego Park Queens, late one Shabbat afternoon. However this was not your ordinary breeze that was permeating through my house. You see, my fellow readers, my father planted mints and lots of them in the back yard. As anybody knows a thing or two about planting, mints-nana grow like wildfire. The cross ventilation of the breeze carried the nana aroma, and marched it through our home as the sun set. I gravitated between heaven and back. However to my frustration the scent didn’t last after the initial pleasant burst, although I really wanted it to continue.

This is in perfect harmony with what Rabbi Akiva Tatz teaches us about life and nature. The first contact, whether it be smell, sound, sight, or touch is a tremendous sensation. However, it doesn’t last. The second and third such feeling afterwards does not live up to the first contact. Those who are big sports fan might remember the old Shafer beer commercial where the narrator proclaims the second beer is as good as the first.

Rabbi Tatz warns us that marriage is the same. He gets complaints often by individuals stating that they don’t have the same feeling as when they initially got married. “The sparks are gone” they tearfully say. After two years they want to get divorced. That’s wrong!! Of course one doesn’t still have the sweaty palms and the giggly nature and that’s because now the actual marriage begins. The initial mesmerizing sensation of meeting someone wonderful is over. For now it will take an entire lifetime to get that feeling again and when it does it will be much more meaningful and gratifying then the initial first time.

This is the nature of the beast within a human. It should be noted that there are some significant exceptions. There are those who can magnify that spark for an extended period. Some can make it last an entire lifetime. The Talmud (Baba Kama 97b) tells us, “The coin of Abraham had the images of an old man and woman on one side and the images of a young boy and girl on the other side.” G-d had promised Abraham, “Ve’agadla shemecha,” that He would make Abraham’s name great (Gen. 12:2). The Midrash Rabba in Lech Lecha explains that this means that Abraham would become famous and a coin would be minted in his honor. This is the coin that the Talmud is referring to.

The commentator, Eitz Yosef, explains that the young boy and girl on the coin represented Abraham and Sarah, who miraculously experienced renewed youthfulness. Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik explains that on a psychological level Abraham and Sarah were able to seamlessly meld the advantages of youth and maturity. And just like their name was added a letter and they went against nature so too their descendants are able to accomplish the same feet. They too will not be subjected to the laws of nature.

This is exactly what the Greeks wanted to destroy. The three treasures that set aside the Jews from nature were Rosh Chodesh-the new moon, which renews every thirty days. The second is Shabbat which renews once a week. And the last is brit Milah which transforms a boy to a new world, a world of mitzvoth and entrance into the congregation of Israel. Without these three the bnai Yisrael would lose their nuance, their vitality. The Greeks wanted to aim directly at B’nai Yisrael’s power source.

There is not a week that doesn’t pass when one doesn’t see some advertisement for a miraculous product that will make us look or feel years younger. Expensive creams that will take years of wrinkles off our skin, wonder diets or special exercises that will shape our body to make us look drastically more youthful . . .

And have you ever noticed that it is a societal faux pas to ask anyone beyond their teens what their age is? Too many of us remain at 21++ years, without the willingness to publicly acknowledge the passage of time.

Let’s face it: our society as a whole adores and pursues youth. Not only that we remember our youth with such sweetness and yearn for the opportunity to relive those glory days.

Why do Cherubim represent Talmidei Chachomim? This is the answer, Rabbi Frand indicates, that Cherubim represent Torah Scholar, for they must always possess a child-like exuberance to learn Torah. Typically, only children possess such exuberance. As we get older, we become jaded and nonchalant about things. If we can think back to when we were children or can think back to the way our children were or the way they are – that first time that one learns Chumash, the excitement is palpable. The first time one’s child recites the Mishna of “Mah Nishtana,” he is so keyed up that the excitement keeps him up for the entire Seder! Likewise, the first time one learns a blatt Gemara.
The way to become a Talmud Chacham is to make sure that our learning always maintains the symbolism of “…and I shall speak with you from atop the lid, from between the two Keruvim that are on the Aron of the Testimony…” [Shmot 25:22]. A person must try to hold onto that child-like enthusiasm, in order to become a true Talmud Chacham. As we’ve mentioned in the past, the word for a sage in Hebrew is not “Chacham”, it is “TALMID Chacham”. Even the great sage remains a STUDENT.

It seems like it’s was a different world today compare to our childhood; it seems like, at times, it’s a different existence entirely. Is our youth behind us? Will we ever experience that wonderful feeling again? Will we ever have an opportunity to relive or see a video of our youth with all its feeling we had attached to it? How many of us remember getting really excited and enthusiastic about something lately. That’s a childhood frequent occurrence and, frankly, I truly miss that feeling. I remember when my son was about three years old, how he would get excited for the littlest thing.

I read this beautiful poem I would like to share:
A child’s enthusiasm comes in a storm, taking over the child’s entire world.
That is why, when a child embraces a new, good trait, it enters forever.

The old man on 47th street working for Zolands made me feel good every time I walked into the store for he called me “kid”. Even twenty five years later he called me “kid”. It made me feel good; it made me feel young. When I walked in one time and found out he retired, I felt sad. One of the other salesmen, Fred, asked me “Why are you sad about him retiring?” I said “The old man always made me feel good because he called me “kid””. Fred laughed and said “He called everyone kid whom he didn’t remember.”

Opposites attract

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Naftali Ganzvi,  Lori Rodin,  Asher Herzberg, Yossi Bilus, Yitschak Adlerstien, Mendal Kalmanson, Uri Sklar, Ilan Feder

Look at how time flies! This week we conclude the book of Shemot, and wow! we haven’t even had Purim yet, due to the leap year, two months of Adar. In this week’s Torah portion, the Mishkan -Tabernacle has been completed and the inauguration immanent. Moshe and Aharon, two brothers, the leaders of the Jewish people, probably, the most successful brothers that have taken a leadership role in the history of civilization, have guided the Jews in becoming a nation. Actually, for that matter, Moshe is considered the greatest leader ever. This was accomplished by their tremendous love to the Master of the Universe.
There is a tremendous lesson one can learn from these intriguing two brothers, Moshe and Aharon and how they were able to gel together, have the utmost respect for each other, even though they were raised in different setting. Moshe grew up in prominence, a prince in the house of Pharaoh. Aharon was reared amongst his brethren, the slaves. Even more challenging, how they were able to be so productive and run a nation.  Although, it was a time of open miracles and the fact that the two had enormous fate helped elevate their effort to a supernatural way we still have to examine the relationship between the greatest leader and the charismatic and holy Kohen Gadol, Moshe and Aharon.
 Their relationship was a delight; it was a far cry from some of the previous sibling relationships which we learned about in the book of Bereshit; Yaacov and Eisav, Yishmael and Yitzchak, Kayin and Hevel, and Yosef and his brothers. And if we examine the Parshiot and Medrashim closely we can see the difference in personality was very apparent. It seemed like Moshe and Aharon were opposites.
 The relationship between man, wife and G-d is intriguing and we can learn a tremendous insight, which is also is found in these last parshiot.  The Mishkan, which is discussed in all of the last four parshiot, was constructed on the donations of the Jewish nation. One of the vessels, the Kiyor was made out of copper and was donated by the Jewish women. The wives gave their mirrors through which they prepared and beautified themselves for their husbands.
 Moshe at first was reluctant and even verbally opposed to accept the mirrors citing that it came from lust and passion. These type of subject matters should be left in the private bedroom not the holy temple.
 However G-d interceded and told Moshe to accept the Mirrors. On the contrary it would be an honor considering the self-sacrifice and courage of these women who devised a plan to persuade their husband after a grueling day of being tortured and overworked by the Egyptians to have relations for the sake of having children and ensure Jewish continuity.
 The question posed: Granted if it was such a commendable and courageous act orchestrated by our holy mothers, then why wasn’t Moshe able to come to the same conclusion himself?   It is made more intriguing by the fact that Moshe just returned from the heavens after spending a total of 120 days there.  One would figure if you spend time with G-d one might have an edge and be proficient in these matters.
 Secondly, where was Aharon? He was a man of peace, a man who understood all the marital difficulties. Considering he felt and witnessed the pain of the people during the morbid time of servitude, he should have spoken out as well!
Aharon was Moshe right hand man.  A closer reading of the Torah’s account reveals the leadership of Israel to have been a team effort: ever present at Moses’ side is his older brother, Aaron. At times Aaron’s role is strongly pronounced, at times it is scarcely discernible, but he is always there.
When Moshe confronts Pharaoh, it is together with Aaron, who plays a major role in performing the miracles and bringing on the plagues that force the release of the Israelites. When G-d commands His first mitzvah to the Jewish people, it is addressed “to Moshe and to Aaron”-a phrase that often appears in the Torah amidst the many “G-d spoke to Moses” introductions to its laws. When the people complain, it is “to Moshe and to Aaron” that they address their grievances; when Korach challenged Moshe’s leadership, it was a rebellion also (indeed, primarily) against Aaron’s place in the leadership.
What is the difference between the two? There are two ways to get a sinner to repent: Through words of reproach, or through a hug.
 Moses’ first recorded words in the Bible, uttered upon seeing a Hebrew fistfight, are: “Why are you beating your fellow [even if he is wicked like you]? Moses didn’t beat around the bush. He reprimanded his brethren out of concern.
If Aaron had been there he might have said it differently. As the Midrash recounts: “When Aaron would pass a wicked man, he would greet him warmly. The next day, when the wicked man would want to engage in sin, he would think to himself, ‘Woe is to me! How will I be able to look upon Aaron tomorrow when he greets me with love?'” Aaron transformed people through love and his confidence in them.
The different approaches of Moshe and Aaron are summed up in the Midrashic statement: “Aaron would never mention a person’s sin to them, while Moses would rebuke them.”
It’s not that Aaron didn’t care about their spiritual wellbeing. Nothing could be further from the truth. “Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, who loved his fellow creatures and drew them close to Torah.”
Aaron shared Moshe’ passion for drawing people close to G-d. His modus operandi, however, was his all-embracing attitude, directed even at those whose only redeeming factor was that they were G-d’s creatures.
Moshe was a man of truth, Aaron of peace. Moshe sought justice, Aaron sought resolution to conflict. There is a real difference between these two approaches. Truth, justice, law: the Moshe approach. Mediation, conflict resolution, compromise, the Aaron-type virtues. With these two approaches a nation was born. Perhaps we have to think similarly, in our lives. How to be productive and how to accomplish it in the optimal way. We have to find people weather a wife, business partner or a mere friend that do not possess the same qualities as us but quite the contrary.
 Besides for Moshe and Aharon, the Torah bring a classic example of a relationship right at the start of the Torah, Adam and Eve.
The Torah stated that “It is not good for man to be alone”. What was “not good” about Adam’s condition without Chava that led to her creation? Our first reaction assumes that Adam desperately needed Chava, because without her, he could not continue humankind beyond his own lifetime. It was “not good” that he found himself unable to reproduce. It is impossible, however, that the Torah meant that Chava was created to allow Man to procreate. Why would Man have been created any differently from any other animal species, whose reproductive capacity was assured with its creation?
 The Torah must mean something quite different. The females of other species make themselves available to mate, but not for anything substantially more. They do not enter into a life-long identification with a single male.
This state of affairs was “not good.” G-d therefore announces that He would make the human female different from the female of other species. Woman will be at Man’s side throughout his life.
This turns out to be a complex change from the prevailing model in the animal kingdom, and not a simple one. Man carries within him many capacities which vary enormously between individuals. No single skill set would enable Woman to complement Man, to help him in all his pursuits, at all junctures of his life. Woman was therefore given flexibility and plasticity. She would be able to partner with her mate in whatever he pursued. Standing “opposite him” is a perfect way of expressing this. She would not fill a particular need or group of needs, but would round out his activity and personality in myriad ways. “Opposite him” is not a vague description of assigned role, but testimony to her possession of many talents. It means that she was created to be opposite him, to offer a different voice and perspective from his, particularly when he acts out on some deficiency.
A person whose behavior at a given moment is shaped by some character flaw might enjoy and appreciate the full support of his wife. This, of course, is short-sighted and counterproductive. His real interests are much better served by a wife who is critical of him, when her criticism is delivered for a constructive purpose. He won’t learn unless someone is there to point out his errors and deficiencies. He might wince in pain at her opposition, but by preventing him from acting inappropriately, she acts as his true helper. Her opposition is the best assistance he can receive; it is no genuine opposition at all
This is precisely what Sages mean. If he merits, her opposition itself will help him. If he does not merit the good wife, she will not oppose his baser behavior, but go along with all he does, including activities that are harmful to him. The cheerful assistance of the yes-woman may bring a short-sighted smile to his face, but it gets him nowhere in the long run. Her apparent help and assistance are inconsistent with his best interests.
 It’s a misconception that while dating one is looking for similar qualities to themselves. Interestingly, many lectures plead not to pursue that thought pattern. I don’t think they needs to plea, or beg, for naturally subconsciously, one is looking for what they lack.
 The construction of the Tabernacle and the service in it is a case in point. In the Parshah of Tetzaveh we read how G-d assigns to Aaron and his sons the responsibility of conducting the service in the Tabernacle: they are to represent the people in the endeavor to approach and interact with G-d by offering sacrifices to Him and performing the other services in the Sanctuary. This would seem to designate the Tabernacle as Aaron’s “domain.” Yet, as mentioned above, it is Moses who must construct the Tabernacle. And it is Moses who must initiate Aaron into the priesthood. For seven days, Moses is to serve as a Kohen (in effect assuming Aaron’s role), offering the sacrifices brought by Aaron and his sons. The Tabernacle is indeed Aaron’s domain-after the seven-day initiation period. Why then didn’t Aharon assume the position from the beginning?
The reason is Moshe is ISH ELOKIM man of G-d. Whereas Aharon is the man of the people. The initial jump start, the bridge between man and G-d is best suited through Moshe. However thereafter it’s the man who identifies with the people who will be best suited for the position.
One can understand Moshe’s view as to why the mirrors would be inappropriate for the Mishkan services, however, G-d overturned the decision; Moshe was incorrect in his assessment of the matter. Nevertheless there was no complaint at all towards Moshe. There was no reprimand as to how he did not know the answer even though he was with G-d for 120 days in the heavens. Moshe was concerned about our holy mother’s intention, perhaps it was physical desire that led them to be with their husbands. If that was the case, although they would be perfectly in the right to live with their husbands and bond with them especially in this great difficult time, it, though, would not be appropriate for the temple services. However G-d is G-d and he knows what is in everybody’s heart and examined the holy righteous mothers and knew that their intentions were pure. The wives wanted to build a family, a nation. Moshe would have never have known this for it is only G-d who examines the intentions of living being.
The classic pasukim in the Torah describing two brothers who love each other are in Tehillim: “A Song of Ascents to David: Behold how good and how pleasant is it when brothers dwell together in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head running down upon the beard, the beard of Aharon, running down over his garments.” [Tehillim 133:1-2]. The phrase “brothers dwelling together in unity” (sheves achim gam yachad) refers to Moshe and Aharon. They are the quintessential “sheves achim gam yachad”. Aharon was happy for Moshe’s success and his elevation to leadership status and then when Moshe Rabbeinu saw that Aharon faltered, he nullified himself to ensure that Aharon retained the glory due him. Moshe and Aharon’s relationship is what we would all like to see among brothers — among our children and our siblings, namely the state of “Behold how good and pleasant is it when brothers dwell together in unity.”


Do you want to hear a real Purim tail?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Yissachar Frand, Yossi bilus, Asher Hurzberg, Artscrol Siddur

As of right now, we are at the threshold of the holiday of Purim, yet it seems impossible to escape all the hype of the Presidential elections which will take place this coming November.  While we ponder who to vote for, whether it be Clinton, Trump, or anyone else who won the designated party nomination, one cannot help but to wonder the first and foremost question that we should be asking ourselves: Who will be good for the Jews?
Purim is wonderful!  Purim is fun!
I personally have a problem with the catch phrase for the month: MESHEH NICHNAS ADAR MARBIM B’SIMCHA – when the month of Adar is upon us there will be a great increase in the joy of all of us Jews. Well that wasn’t exactly the case for this Jew, for I just commemorated on the 5th of Adar the twelfth anniversary of my father’s, z”l, passing. Where was the joy? It was a difficult time in my life. I was no happy camper, I remembering feeling numb while seeing the rest of the world celebrating Purim. If it was time for my father to depart this wonderful world, why couldn’t G-d escort him out during a negative month? It didn’t make sense.
Oddly enough my father passed away on the Hebrew same date of his mother’s passing. How spooky is that!!
There are a number of fascinating questions pertaining to the above topics mentioned on the Megilat Esther – the story of Purim.
There are two points that stand out as we look into the Megilla. The first is Queen Vashti:
Achashverosh, the king of Persia, threw a big party and when he was in a drunken state of mind, he commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear before those assembled to show off her beauty. Vashti refused to come. According to the Talmud [Megilla 12], her refusal to come was not based on any sudden sense of modesty on her part, rather the Angel Gavriel came and put a tail on her.
Out of all things to make a person undesirable, why did G-d’s messenger, the angel Gavriel, choose a tail?  If one wants to make a person ugly there is an entire smorgasbord of gruesome appearances to consider.  We come from a “creature feature” Hollywood horror films society that views what Gavriel the Angel chose to be amateurish. Ask us, we’re the professionals, especially after 45 years of alien villains on the different Star Treks. Furthermore, in today’s day and age, where “different” is “cool” many would find tail actually attractive and refreshing. It would be a great conversation piece. “Hey, you know what grew out of my backside? A tail!” Ooh ahh.
The second point that relates to us is the number 127, pertaining to the countries that Achashverosh, and later Esther, ruled. Interestingly we never hear about this number again in the Megila. For the most part it’s insignificant. Why is this number even presented?
Now for another point, unrelated to the Megila, yet related to our discussion. Our prayers are very deep in meaning. However, unfortunately many people simply do not have access to innermost meaning rooted inside of them. One particular prayer which will help shed some light on our questios is BARUCH SHE’AMAR. With the recitation of this prayer talking is omitted till the end of the AMIDA. BARUCH SHE’AMAR elevates our prayers; it is the first step of 4 of the spiritual ladder of getting close to G-d.  We will explore how it plays a crucial role in our understanding of these subject matters.
Often, when the Talmud relates a story of Aggadic nature, such as this, the Gemara is not to be taken literally. The Gemara is teaching a message with this story. The Chofetz Chaim suggests that the Gemara means something else. We do not need to assume that Vashti literally grew a tail.
The Talmud teaches [Sanhedrin 96] that Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylonia, was not born into royalty. How did he become King then? The Gemara relates that Chizkiyahu, King of Judea, became very sick and he was miraculously saved. The Almighty wanted to publicize the fact that the King of Judea was miraculously healed so he made a second miracle – namely, the day that King Chizkiyahu was cured lasted 18 hours! That got people’s attention! The whole world realized that it was a miraculous day. The King of Babylonia at that time was a person named Biladan. Biladan said, “I need to send congratulatory remarks to the King of Judea. He is so righteous that the Almighty changed nature for him, I must send him a letter of congratulations and admiration.” He ordered his scribe (who at the time was Nevuchadnetzar) to draft the letter for him. However, that day, for whatever reason, Nevuchadnetzar was not there. So, the other scribes went ahead and drafted a letter without the input of the chief scribe, Nevuchadnetzar. The letter’s salutation was as follows: “Peace unto you King Chizkiyahu; peace unto Jerusalem; and peace unto the Almighty G-d.” Nevuchadnetzar returned from wherever he was and asked to review a copy of the letter. When he saw the salutation he objected. The honor of the Almighty G-d should have been placed first, not third in the letter! However the other scribes told him that the original had already been sent off. Nevuchadnetzar ran after the messengers to try to stop them so as not to send the letter with such a “blasphemous” salutation. The Talmud says that he ran four steps in the direction of the courier. He wanted to stop him and reverse the salutation by rewriting it according to proper protocol: “Peace to the Almighty G-d; peace to the city of Jerusalem; and peace to King Chizkiyahu.”

The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches that after he ran those four steps (according to an alternate version in the Yalkut he ran only 3 steps) to stop the letter, Gavriel came and stopped him in his tracks so that he would not be able to run any further. The Talmud comments that had Gavriel not come and limited the merit, Nevuchadnetzar was gaining for himself by showing G-d this honor, “There would not have been left a remnant of the enemies of the Jewish people” (The Gemara often uses euphemistic ways to express bad things, in this case saying that as opposed to saying the Jewish people would have been totally wiped out). The Gemara asks, “What did Nevuchadnetzar get as reward for his walking the four steps?” The Gemara answers that he saw himself and 3 generations after him become royalty. The 4 generations were Nevuchadnetzar, Evil Merodach, Balshatzar, and Vashti. Vashti was a great-granddaughter of Nevuchadnetzar.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that there is actually no dispute between the version that says Nevuchadnetzar ran 4 steps and the version that says he ran 3 steps. He actually ran 3 full steps. In the middle of the fourth step Gavriel came and stopped him before he had a chance to complete the fourth step. It was cut off in the middle.
That is why the Gemara testifies that if he would have taken four whole steps the Jewish people would have been wiped out! The Chofetz Chaim interprets: Since he did not take a complete fourth step, the reign of his fourth descendant [Vashti] was terminated prematurely. Had Vashti remained on the throne, Esther would never have been in a position to save the Jewish people and they would have been wiped out in the time of Haman.
The Chofetz Chaim states further that this is what it means that Gavriel (the same Angel who stopped Nevuchadnetzar from taking that fourth step) came and placed a tail upon Vashti. The term “zanav” (tail) alludes to the fact that it was the tail end of the dynasty of Nevuchadnetzar.
The lesson of this story is that this is how the Almighty runs his world. The incident with Gavriel happened in the time of Chizkiyahu King of Judea – many years before the era of Haman and Achashverosh. Because of what took place then, Klal Yisrael was saved many years later in the time of Purim.
Events happen or do not happen for many seemingly many random reasons, but behind the supposed motivations of people, the Almighty is manipulating history to carry out His Will. Behind the curtains, the Master of the Universe is pulling the strings.
There is a true story, which appears in the historical archives of the Knesset, which Rabbi Frand heard from Rabbi David Ordman. The story goes, Rav Shlomo Lorenz (a former Knesset member of Agudat Yisrael) once met Harry S. Truman, President of the United States. President Truman told Rabbi Lorenz, “You should know that when I agreed to recognize the State of Israel, it went against the advice of my advisors and it was against every political instinct that I have. But I will tell you why I did it…” (The conventional wisdom is that Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel in 1948 because he had a Jewish partner in the haberdashery business in Independence, Missouri many decades earlier. The partner had come to him in the White House and asked him for the favor. Now you will hear the real story from Harry Truman himself.)
President Truman told Rabbi Lorenz “I was a little boy growing up in the United States and every little boy growing up in the United States dreams of becoming president. That was my dream. I’ll tell you something else. I was a good Christian boy and I learned my Bible. My hero in the Bible was Cyrus (who we know a Koresh, none other than a descendant of Queen Esther).  Koresh is the one who let the Jewish people go back to their homeland and build their Temple (Bais HaMikdash). I said, if I ever become President of the United States, I want to imitate my hero and if I ever get the opportunity to let the Jewish people go back to their country and rebuild their Temple that is what I am going to do. And that”, he concluded, “Is why I recognized the State of Israel.”
This is the same story: The Hand of G-d at work. Just like with Vashti – we do not know what on earth possessed her to disobey her husband and not come as he ordered, but we do know what in Heaven did. The Almighty sent an Angel and made it happen, so that Klal Yisrael should be saved. So too, Harry Truman had this ‘mishugaas’ – he wanted to emulate Koresh. Some of us have odd heroes, as well. When I grew up my hero was Bud Harrelson, a baseball player who played shortstop for the New York Mets, as opposed to the popular choice of either Tom Seaver or Bobby Mercer. There is probably not another person in the world whose main Biblical hero was Koresh, but that was the idiosyncrasy of Harry Truman. And because of that, the rest is history.
There is a popular Midrash which links Esther and Sarah, which pertains to the very beginning, the very first sentence of the Megillah. The first sentence includes the apparent superfluous information that Achashverosh ruled over 127 provinces. The Midrash describes Rabbi Akiva as asking, “How did Esther merit to rule over 127 provinces?” He answered, “Let [Esther,] the descendant of Sarah who lived 127 years, come and rule over 127 provinces.”
Sarah is the only woman in the entire Torah whose age is recorded: 127 years, a number that the Kabbalists explain denotes perfection and achievement.  The commentaries mentioned that the reason that Sarah is linked to Esther is because Esther is in essence is replacing Sarah who is the antithesis to Vashti.
In Tractate Megila the Gemara asks, “Who were the most beautiful woman that ever lived?” It goes on to list, Chava (Eve) the first woman, Sarah the first matriarch, Esther the Queen of Persia and Rachav the woman who helped the spies conquer Israel and who later converted to Judaism.
The Gemara also lists their virtues that led to them to be attractive. Physical beauty is not enough; it needs to be complemented by personality. The Gemarah says what brought out Sarah’s beauty was her modesty.
It is also written in the Holy Scriptures that besides modesty, Sarah is also known for her love of Shabbat. The Sages say that she purposely had a different maid servant for each day of the week, so she would be aware it’s Shabbat; mind you this is before calendars existed.
When Sarah passed away, the coronation of her son, Yitzchak’s bride, Rivka as her spiritual successor was as follows: when she entered Sarah tent, the Midrash says, the Shabbat candles automatically lit. Sarah’s candles, which she lit before Shabbat miraculously lasted to the next Shabbat.
It’s not for naught that we recite the beautiful prayer Eshet Chail – woman of valor, Friday night at the beginning of the royal Shabbat table. The prayer was composed by King Shlomo and was influenced by the eulogy given by Avraham to his wife Sarah.
Sarah, the loyal wife of Avraham, was instrumental in his campaign to bring the world closer to G-d. Vashti on the other hand, chose the opposite path.  Vashti was known to purposely force the Jewish women to work and dress immodestly on Shabbat. She caused a complete desecration of that holy day. Esther carried the torch of Sarah in trying to restore the G-dly decorum and dignity into the world, which only a queen or an equivalent stature can accomplish.

BARUCH SHE’AMAR starts with a very popular world BARUCH.  Baruch is commonly translated as “blessed”. If we contemplate this, we see that the translation “blessed” does not make sense. What does it even mean to say someone is “blessed”? Perhaps it means that he has a lot. Are we saying that G-d has a huge amount of everything?
A better translation of BARUCH is obtained by comparing this word to other similar words in Hebrew. When Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, brought his camels to the well where he met Rebecca, he caused his camels to bend their knees. The word used there is, “Vi’yavrach” (a derivative of “baruch”) which means “to make [the camels] kneel down. (Genesis 24:11)
The word BARUCH is also related to the word in Hebrew “berach” which means knee. Another use of the root of BARUCH is the Hebrew word “L’havrich” which refers to taking a vine, and to put part of the growing branch under the ground so that it may sprout roots. BARUCH is also related to the Hebrew word Barak, which means lightning. Barak is of a similar, although different root.
What we see by comparing the word BARUCH to all the various forms of the root of the word is something that has to do with a downward motion. The lowering of the camels, planting of the vine, and lightning, all have in common a downward motion.
What we now understanding is that the definition of BARUCH means coming down. In the standing silent prayer, the Amidah, we bend our knees when mentioning the word “BARUCH” in the first blessing. This is indicative of the real meaning of the word BARUCH – going in a downward direction.
More specifically in the general context of a “blessing”, it means that G-d is bringing something down to the earth and we through our prayers are requesting the goodness that will benefit us to do what we came to this world for.
* There are 13 BARUCHS equivalent to the 13 attributes of G-d.
* The prayer BARUCH SHE’AMAR was transcribed by the men of the great assembly 2400 years ago from a script that fell from the heavens.
Interestingly, one may ask why we kiss our TZITZIOT at the end of this prayer. According to the Kabbalah tradition the TZITZIT represent the 613 mitzvot.  What about the kiss?

One of the ways one can get close to G-d is through meditation which consists of breathing. It says (Bereshit 2,8) “And G-d blew into his nostrils the soul of life”. For this reason Shofar on Rosh Hashana is so potent. The blower, who represents the Jewish people, uses his breath to convey forgiveness. The same breath that we received for life is one to ask for forgiveness. Therefore breath is very spiritual. That is also why Jews are forbidden to blow out a candle with their breath. A kiss consists of breath and therefore it too is spiritual. Interestingly, according to the Mystics the proper way to have marital relationship is through kissing for it insures that the physical act has spirituality incorporated within. It would give it true and proper meaning. Therefore kissing brings down spirituality in the physical world. BARUCH SHE’AMAR is the bridge between the heavens and earth
All this is an introduction to the phrase in the BARUCH SHE’AMAR of BARUCH GOZER U’MIKAYEM – G-d decrees and fulfills the decree. Whether it be Vashti three and half generations later, whether it be Truman, the death of a loved one, whether the up and coming presidential elections, it’s all part of the master plan. HOWEVER WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS AND THEREFORE ONLY AT END WE SHALL SEE THE GOODNESS.
ZANAV (tail) in Hebrew consist of the letter ZAYIN which is the numerical value of seven that is Shabbat which is the seventh day of the week and NUN and BET which is 52, for the 52 weeks of the year. Shabbat is the end of the week similar to the fact that the tail is at the end. Vashti’s tail was insignificant. G-d runs the world with measure for measure, or MIDA K’NEGED MIDA. Vashti desecrated the Shabbat therefore the tail was a source of death for her. However Shabbat if done right the ZOHAR states has the ability to generate life, energy, and SHEFA throughout the coming week, the future.
However, Vashti’s  tail was insignificant. G-d runs the world with measure for measure MIDA K’NEGED MIDA. Vashti desecrated the Shabbat, or perhaps made others desecrate it, therefore the tail  was the source of death.