Archive for June 2016

Ayin Hara, the World and receiving the Torah

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Asher Hurzberg,
Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l, yossi Bilus, Ilan Feder

Timna, the mother of Amalek, was the concubine of Elifaz, the son of Eisav. One may find it odd that she was merely a concubine considering she was the daughter of a king and the sister of a prominent figure, Liytan. The reason for this was because she was under the strong belief of ‘better rather be a mistress to this nation than a queen to a different nation’, ‘this nation’ referring to Avraham and his children. In fact, she made her overtures to be the wife of Avraham, Isaac, and Yaakov but was rejected by all three; our forefathers did not accept her. So she settled for Elifaz. In a statement from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, which this dvar Torah is based from, he says the bitterness of being rejected by our ancestors became ingrained and transferred to Timna’s future genealogy. The rage Amalek has towards us stems from jealousy of Timna, that of being tossed away and not accepted. Rav Chaim asks “How can that be? It’s out of character of the persona and philosophy of Avraham. This is the great Avraham, whose teachings of G-d and the notion of bringing people back was his virtue. He was an expert of bringing people closer to G-d, to convert everybody and to take them under the wing of glory. The self-sacrifice he gave towards outreach is one of astonishment, and yet he turns and rejects an individual soul who understands the prominence and value of his family, and is willing to give up so much to be a part of it. One can say it’s very commendable on her part. The question remains, ‘Why didn’t they accept Timna?'”
Timna wasn’t accepted because she wasn’t worthy to be under the clouds of glory. Our ancestors saw through prophecy that she and her descendants carry in their genes very bad traits, and our fathers wanted no part of it. As one is familiar Amalek became our most bitter enemy. They have haunted us for thousands of years.What is their source of power?
The answer lies at the revelation at Sinai. In order to understand we have to delve into a very odd Jewish behavior that is based on a deep concept found in our Torah. Let’s explain.

It’s really scary what one can pick up living like a stranger in a strange land. As Rabbi Berel Wein, the Jewish historian says about Jews in Germany: “The Jews became better Germans then the Germans!” But if we examine our way of life, we find that there is a profound difference between Jews and Americans. They use Facebook to show off their whereabouts and latest vacations, however for the most part, we Jews are not so showoff-y. We have a certain fear and, you know what, that’s a Jewish thing. But regardless where the source originates, it’s downright peculiar how we react when G-d is or is about to shower us with blessings. For example, many of us do not disclose they’re dating someone seriously until they are engaged. Everything is under wraps, and all in the family household are sworn to secrecy not to disclose to no one that a family member is dating someone. Furthermore, if they can hide it, and not be seen, one pushes off the news of pregnancy until after three months. Some go further and don’t say anything till birth.

We have all have acted like ‘Mossad agents’ and experienced our friends doing the same. How can you not tell your best friend you were dating seriously? One can feel slighted. However that’s how many of us are and that is our society. That is our custom. Although, we’ve adopted much from the host country we are from, the root of “not to tell” is rooted in the very essence of our holy Torah.

Our society accepts the notion of not disclosing potential brachot until it actually happens. Some people never mention how many children they have. Big business deals are played down and the business is presented as “tough times” even though the one asked just made a “killing”, the deal of his life. If one passes by a street in Boro Park, the houses look very unassuming even though inside’s a palace where millions were spent.

We can attribute the down play of our success to two reasons. One, our holy Sages promote and preach modesty. It’s not just how we look but how we act. Secondly, the reason why people are reluctant to show off is because they are afraid of the evil eye. Interestingly, the Talmud approaches the subject of the evil eye very seriously. Rav says in tractate Baba Metzia, “99% of deaths have occurred from the result of the evil eye”.

These two reason have influenced the behavior of Jews throughout the generations. It’s a philosophy an approach which has become a tradition and is a mark on Jewish style and way of life. “We have to be unassuming” this is what the mainstream Sages have ingrained in us over the years. “This is the way of G-d”.

The source of the hidden philosophy comes from the Talmud “There is only bracha if it’s hidden from the eye.” Our Sages convey that the biggest bracha is children and regarding them we have to be as modest as can be. If one notices, the most common tradition to conceive children through marital relations is in the confines of the private bedroom at night in the dark under the covers where no one can see, not even the negative angels so the source, root of the bracha is hidden. To extend this idea further Rabbi Akiva Tatz morhidden.

In Chasidic teachings we are taught of the concept of tzimtzum – to trickle down. G-d spirituality trickles down in a minute portion. We don’t receive the abundance of love, it’s measured. This is essentially the same concept for G-d presence in the world is scarce.

Is it really the Jewish way? Is this what G-d wants? Is it really the way of G-d? Is hidden HIS philosophy? There is an incredible question told over to me by Rabbi Asher Hurtzberg posed by the Sfat Emet. If “unassuming” and “modesty” is the way to go, then why did we receive the Torah in such a spectacular way? Why was receiving the Torah hyped up to such an extent, where the whole world heard? The thunder and the lightning it was a sight to see, an extravaganza like no other. It’s uncharacteristic of the Master of the Universe to order such a hoopla event. It doesn’t flow with the program.

As a matter of fact, it did prove to be a negative, for shortly afterwards the Jews sinned with the golden calf. The Torah was showcased and we paid a heavy price. Presumably the Ayin Harah kicked in. Moshe broke the first Luchot. Death was brought back into the world. What a disaster!!

Perhaps we needed one of those Ayin Hara remover experts with heating lead on the stove to determine which people or nation gave us the evil eye. There is an entire cookbook of Ayin hara remedies.

However, the second Luchot-Tablets reverted back to G-d’s hidden philosophy. It was back to basics. There was not much fanfare. Seemingly, the fact that we had such trouble with the first ceremony strengthens our question. Why then was the original “receiving of the Torah” spectacular? Why go through all that?

The answer is plain black and white; quoiting the Torah in parshat Yitro (19:9) “So the people will hear as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.”

G-d changed the philosophy of “hidden” one time and one time only “for many witnesses are more believable then few”. Here three million people witnessed the receiving the Torah and “the world heard and trembled”. The enormous breathtaking and dazzling display had an imprint on the world forever. It demonstrated to the world that the Jewish religion is different than other religion. No other can claim that they witnessed the spectacular event, the inception, the correlation of their religion. No other religion can claim that an entire nation saw and heard the recitation of at least some of the commandments from the voice G-d himself; Christianity nor the Muslims can make that claim. G-d did it in such a way that IT’S CLEAR THE TORAH WAS GIVEN AT MOUNT SINAI!! End of discussion.

However, there is one lingering question that is still very apparent. Why drag the world into our party? Can’t it just simply be only Jews Allowed? Why does it have to reach to the four corners of the world? Aren’t the Jews the only ones to have accepted the Torah?

For us to be the Ambassadors of the Master of the Universe we have the task to travel to all parts of the world. At times it seems like we are forced to leave our homes; our hosts were not gracious to us no more. The wondering Jew has to find different shelter in a different part of the world. It’s interesting, for it was designed that way from the revelation at Sinai. The wondering Jews have to make our presence to all four corners of the globe. Why?

The Torah describes how Moshe wrote on a rock the Torah in seventy different languages. What is the reason for this? What is our mission abroad?

The most evil nation in the world is Amalek. The Torah proclaims they should be wiped out. Interestingly we find out some of Amalek’s descendant became Torah scholars. How is that possible from the wicket righteous people emerge?

The world is divided into Kedusha and Tumah, holiness and impurity, good and evil positive and negative. Interestingly in order for an evil nation of the world to exist it needs elements of Kedusha. Evils needs the holy spark, it needs the holy power source and feeds from it. Evil (klipa) uses it as energy for their philosophies and negative power.

The task that we must accomplish is to take these Kedusha power source that was dispersed to the four corners of the world at Matan Torah-revelation at Mount Sinai and expose it as G-dly spirituality. We transform their existence to a positive spiritual. For this reason we recite in the prayer V’CHAROT which follows VAYEVARECH DAVID, all the 7 nation every time we recite we utter Hebrew words of their names and expose the sparks of Kedusha which resonates the atmosphere, place people into positive light’

What fuels Amalek and the enemies of the Jews is they were able to take the sparks from the Sinai revelation and to transform it to evil. What is outright deadly and powerful is the combination of these sparks mixed with the good intentions of Timna, the woman who wanted to connect to our ancestors but was denied. Amalek’s descendants are able to take that goodness, that Kedusha and build the most devastating weapon of evil for Kedusha is the spark that can be directed in either direction.

The spreading of the spark from the 1st Luchot and the translation by Moshe of the Torah in to seventy languages paved the way for Jews who live in the diaspora to strengthen themselves and use that spirituality in the host country’s language and soil to spread Kedusha, to spread G-d masterpiece to the world at large.

So in essence the first Luchot, the first spectacular receiving the Torah, accomplished its mission. It was worth a bit of Ayin Hara in order to be fulfil a broader important task, that of transferring the Master of the Universe’s Torah globally.

One of the main reasons we read the book of Ruth, besides that the story takes place during harvest season which always comes out during the Shavuot holiday time, is that King David, who is a descendant of Ruth, died on Shavuot.
        The book of Ruth starts off where a prominent Jewish family led by the patriarch Elimelech, left Israel and settled in the outskirts of Moab. Elimelech was one of the wealthiest people in Israel and he foresaw troubled economic times ahead. He knew that he will be called upon to help with the financial burden laid upon his fellow Jews, and to be instrumental in bringing the country back on its feet. It would require a tremendous amount of generosity on his part, in which he was not ready to oblige.
        G-d gives certain gifts to people with the expectation that they will utilize them when the opportunity calls. However, if one doesn’t step up to the plate, G-d doesn’t need such an individual. So within a 10-year period, both Elimelech and his two sons – who both married non-Jews – died. Elimelech’s widow, Naomi, was heading back to Israel, her homeland, and saying her goodbyes to her two daughter-in-laws. However, one of them, Ruth, decided to follow her mother-in-law to Israel after a failed attempt to persuade her to go back to her country and family.
        They arrived in Israel during harvest season and Ruth, who converted to Judaism, asked Naomi, “Let me go out and glean in the fields.” It happened to be faith that Ruth was working on a parcel of land that happened to be owned by a man named Boaz, a relative of Elimelech. Boaz inquired who Ruth was; he then informed her, “My daughter, does not glean in other fields but this one.” He was impressed with her modesty and for all that she has done for her mother-in-law.
        Naomi informed Ruth that Boaz is one of the redeemers (goel). When someone dies childless, the next of kin has a duty to marry the widow. Boaz was one of those next-of-kin. (Similarly, Boaz’s ancestor, Yehuda, the son of Yaakov, our Forefather, practiced yibum with Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law. However, Yehuda did not know she was Tamar. That passage in the Torah was the first in which we were introduced to that topic.)
        Naomi then gave Ruth the most peculiar instructions ever. She said, “Make yourself look nice and wait until Boaz finishes eating. Then go to him in the field as he lies down to go to sleep. He should not notice you; then lie down by his feet where then he will give you instructions what to do.
        Our courtship, today, is slightly different and more expensive. Has anybody ever been to a New York elegant kosher restaurant? I guess one can say different strokes for different folks. These instructions, which Ruth followed to the T, poses tremendous difficulty. There is a famous expression in the Torah “Before a blind man, don’t put building blocks.” It seems like a clear cut case of what we call here in Queens, seduction.
        Boaz had a routine before he retired for the night, which is a glass of wine and learning a set amount of Torah; he was a member of the 71 Judges. Later that night, he woke up from his sleep and noticed a woman by his feet; he then discovered it was Ruth and realized her intentions. “I’m not going to marry you here, my daughter. Although I am interested, but there is a goal before me. If he declines to redeem you then I shall marry you.”
        The next morning Boaz approached the no-name redeemer, who declined to go forth with redeeming Ruth, leaving Boaz the opportunity to do so. People, then, made the halacha mistake of prohibiting both men and women from Moab for marriage. Boaz who was well-versed in Jewish law, knew it was only the “men” who were prohibited. Boaz found 10 people and proceeded to marry Ruth. After their first night together, Boaz died; however, not before leaving his mark, a very important one. Ruth became pregnant with a son. Very strange, Ruth did not name the child nor raise him. The neighbors named him Oved and Naomi raised him.
        Rabbi Aderet gives us a clearer picture of the book of Ruth through the teachings of the Ari z’l. In order to explain his interesting interpretation, we have to fill one more piece of the puzzle.
        G-d summoned angels to destroy the cities of Sedom and Amora. The only family that did not comply with the atrocities of the two cities was Abraham’s nephew, Lot;  the angels got them out on time. Although, Lot attempted to save his future son-in-law, who is nameless, the-son-in-law didn’t take him up on his offer and subsequently died with the rest.
        Believing the whole world was destroyed, Lot’s daughters conjured up a plan to seduce and procreate with their father, where they both will take turns on consecutive nights. They will supply him with alcohol and he will not know what had occurred. Their plan succeeded and each got pregnant. Our sages criticize the oldest for calling her son, Mo-av, from the father. They teach that even though they did it for the continuity of the world, she shouldn’t have publicized a sin.
        The Ari z’l teaches a very important lesson about cohabitation. Children who come out from a man and woman where there is a mistaken identity, where one partner doesn’t know who they slept with, will cause spiritual damage to the offspring. This offense has to be fixed.
        Boaz, the Ari z’l says, is the reincarnation of Lot and Yehuda. Ruth is the reincarnation of Lot’s oldest daughter and Tamar (and in fact, throughout the story of Ruth, Boaz always referred to her as daughter just like Lot referred to his daughter.)
        Ruth was instructed to lay down by Boaz’s feet to see how is he going to react. Will he get seduced or will he marry her properly? Lot had a future son-in-law that never came to be because he didn’t want to leave Sedom, no name. Boaz had an uncle who refused to marry Ruth, no name. As punishment for naming your child (Lot’s daughter) after a sin, Ruth will not name or raise her child. Boaz ate and drank and learned Torah before cohabiting with Ruth. The Ari z’l says one should try to purify, somewhat, the experience. If one wants to have kids with positive energy, they should learn Torah, preferably with your spouse, before having intimate relations.
        There is a big Mitzvah to co-habit Friday night. The reason is because Adam didn’t listen to G-d, who said, “Be together Friday night;” Adam couldn’t wait. So, the first two children did not come out proper.


This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of   Berel Wein, Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Asher Hurzberg, Yossi Bilus,  Shlomo Katz, Dina Yellen

TBack in the mid-nineties, a Jewish advertising executive in New York
came up with an idea. What if the New York Times – considered the
world’s most prestigious newspaper – listed the weekly Shabbat candle
lighting time each week? Someone would have to pay for the space of
course, but imagine the Jewish awareness and pride that might result
from such a prominent mention of the Jewish Shabbat each week.

He got in touch with a Jewish philanthropist and sold him the idea. It
would cost almost two thousand dollars a week, but the philanthropist
did it. Each Friday for the next five years, Jews around the world
would open the New York Times to see: “Jewish Women: Shabbat candle
lighting time this Friday is…”

Eventually the philanthropist had to cut back on a number of his
projects and, in June 1999, the little Shabbat notice stopped
appearing in the Friday Times. From that week on, it never appeared
again. However, there was one notable exception.

On January 1, 2000, the NY Times ran a Millennium edition. It was a
special issue that featured three front pages.

1. One had the news from January 1, 1900.

2. The second was the actual news of the day, January 1, 2000.

3. A third front page was projecting future events of January 1, 2100.

This fictional page included things like a welcome to the fifty-first
state: Cuba. As well, a discussion as to whether robots should be
allowed to vote, and so on. In addition to the fascinating articles,
there was one more thing. Down on the bottom of the Year 2100 front
page, was the candle lighting time in New York for January 1, 2100.
Nobody paid for it. It was just put in by the Times.

The production manager of the New York Times – an Irish Catholic – was
asked about it. His answer was right on the mark, it speaks to the
eternity of our people and to the power of Jewish ritual. “We don’t
know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict
the future, but of one thing you can be certain, that in the year
2100, Jewish women will be lighting Shabbos candles”.

Interesting isn’t it, how non-Jews view our association with Shabbat
as an eternal inseparable bond? Do they make it more than it is?
Perhaps they feel that for us, or for that matter for all, that
Shabbat is the center of the world. There is certainly a respect they
feel about us and our bonding with Shabbat. Maybe they feel Shabbat is
a powerful force. They’re right!

Parshat Behar / Bechukotai happens to be my bar mitzvah parsha. When
late spring arrives and parshat Behar creeps up, it marks another
year, another quick year, that has whisked by. That’s a frightening
notion. My bar mitzvah video has more people on the other side of the
hill then here with us. When reflecting at the rather quick life we
are all experiencing it’s a sporty idea, an entertaining one no less,
to guess what purpose each one of us were brought in to the world.
What did a particular individual come here to fix? I try to guess
which one of my possible negative traits is the ‘jackpot’, the one I
was sent here to fic. Although if you ask my wife she’ll write up a
whole chaptered booklet of my deficiencies. “And yes, when you fixed
those look out for volume 2” my eshet chail would say.

Regardless of our personal “monkey on our shoulder” dilemmas, there is
another general major test that every Jew is confronted with. It
identifies and categorizes where we stand as Jews, whether in this
world or after we pass on. “Are you Shomer Shabbat?” Is a question
often asked? Shabbat is at the very center of Jewish consciousness. It
is repeated more times than any other mitzvah in the Torah, and it is
the only ritual observance which is part of the Ten Commandments.

Let’s not fool ourselves, one can be super kind and honest that’s
great! Brownie points reward is right at the doorstep however there is
no escaping the fact that “Did you keep Shabbat and to what degree of
honor did you give it?” will be one of the top questions we will be
asked after 120. It’s one of those majors and it is spelled out, black
and white in the Torah text.

What is so special about Shabbat and what powers does it have?


Seven is the official number representing the world. There are seven
days in a week; there are seven year cycles leading to the fiftieth
year Jubilee; the world is divided into seven regions. There are some
opinions that the Jewish calendar starts with the month of Nissan;
therefore the seventh month will come out to be Tishrei, the month
that the world was created and each year is judged.

The midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29:9) states: All the seventh ones are
beloved always. Above, there are seven worlds, and the seventh is the
most favored. These worlds are: shamayim, shmei ha’shamayim, rakia,
shechakim, zevul, maon and aravot. We read (Tehilim 68:5), “Extol He
Who rides upon the highest heavens / aravot with His Name, `Kah’.”

There are seven terms for “land,” and the seventh is the most favored.
These terms are: eretz, adamah, arka, geh, tziyah, neshiyah and tevel.
We read (Tehilim 9:9), “And He will judge tevel in righteousness; He
will judge the regimes with fairness.”

Among generations, the seventh was favored. They were: Adam, Shet,
Enosh, Keinan, Mahalalel, Yered and Chanoch. We read (Bereishit 5:24),
“Chanoch walked with the Elokim”

Among sons, the seventh was favored, as we read (Divrei Hayamim I
2:15), “David, the seventh [son].”


G-d designed the world in such a way that the source of power is
rooted on the seventh day.

“Ki sheshet yamim asa hashem et ha shamaim ve’et ha’aretz, u’vayom
ha’shvi’i shabbat va’yinafash.” that in six days the Lord made the
heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and ceased
from his work.

This famous verse is said a number of times, including the morning
Shabbat Kiddush. Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum sites many Sages asking an
obvious question. It should say B’SHESHET-in six days…..G-d created
the world. Why SHESHET? The fact that it says SHESHET implies that G-d
created the world for ONLY six days and the seventh, Shabbat has a
mission is to rejuvenate and give power to the next six days.

Those of you who have a custom to recite the Zohar for the Friday
night are reading this concept. The Sage imply how one acts and treats
the Shabbat would determine the bracha one gets the following week.

The opening commandment in this week’s parsha deals with shemitta –
the sabbatical year for the Land of Israel when the ground was to be
allowed to lie fallow and the farmer abstained from his regular
routine of work. As soon as the Jews settled in the Holy Land, they
began to count and observe seven-year cycles. Every cycle would
culminate in a Sabbatical year, known as Shemittah, literally: “to

The traditional commentators to the Torah emphasized that even though
the ground and farmer would benefit in the long run from the year’s
inactivity this was not the reason for the commandment. There are
always side benefits from obeying the commandments of the Torah but
these are never the reason or the basis for the commandment itself.

The underlying lesson of the sabbatical year is its obvious kinship to
the weekly Sabbath. Just as every seven days brings with it a holy day
of rest, so too does a holy sabbatical year bring with it a rest for
the earth itself. And, to continue this obvious comparison between
these two Sabbaths, just as the weekly Sabbath is meant to remind us
of God’s creation of the universe so too does the seven year Sabbath
testify to God’s omnipotence and presence in all of our human affairs.


There is a story I read by Dina Yellen which I found touching and
worthwhile to retell. It’s one that many of us can relate to and it
defines our pride and resiliency towards our commitment to Judaism and
our love for G-d.

“As I settled into my seat on Flight 1272 bound for Chicago, I glanced
at the passengers filing down the aisle. My Jew-radar immediately went
off; in addition to the business travelers toting their laptops and
briefcases, and the pleasure travelers wearing shorts and Walkmans, I
spied several suede kippot, a striemel and ankle-length skirts.

Despite our shared heritage, I didn’t bother acknowledging them. They
were strangers. And I live in New York, where strangers seldom
exchange greetings, even if they recite the same prayers”

Many observant Jews raise the red flag when it comes to travel and
Friday. Everyone who is a Shabbat observer has this fear of something
going wrong and then having to break camp in some strange place.

“Well, the inevitable happened, the plane rolled toward the runway and
I waited for takeoff. No such luck. The pilot announced the flight was
being delayed three hours due to stormy weather conditions in Chicago.
I glanced at my watch nervously. Usually, I avoid flying Friday
afternoons for fear I won’t arrive in time, but on summer weekends
when Shabbat doesn’t begin until 8 p.m., I figured I’d be safe. I
figured wrong.

After we finally took off, a half-hour before arrival, the pilot
announced O’Hare Airport was shut down and we were landing in
Milwaukee until we could continue on. My stomach sunk. Candle-lighting
was an hour away. I’d never make it on time. Like most religious Jews
who work in the secular world, I’d experienced my share of close
calls. But I never knowingly violated the Sabbath. Now, I was stuck.

By now, the kippot and long skirts were huddled in the back of the
plane. They had been joined by others. Shabbat was bringing strangers

It was time to introduce myself. We’re going to get off in Milwaukee,
a young man told me. The Chasid had called Milwaukee’s Chabad rabbi,
who offered to host any stranded passengers for Shabbat. Come with us,
he urged. I nodded with relief but returned to my seat crestfallen
since I had planned this weekend with my family for months.

My non-Jewish seatmate, noticing my despair, inquired what was wrong.
When I told him the story, his jaw dropped. “Let me get this
straight,” he said, “You’re getting off the plane in a town where
you’ve never been with people you don’t know to stay overnight with
complete strangers?”

I quickly realized I was among friends. As I attempted to carry my
bags off the plane, a woman insisted on helping me. When we crowded
into cabs to take us to the rabbi’s house, the Chasid insisted on
paying for me. And when the cabs pulled up at the home of the Rabbi
and Rebbetzin, they ran outside to greet us as if we were long lost

The sun set on Milwaukee as they ushered us into their home, where a
long table was set for Shabbat with a white tablecloth, china and
gleaming kiddush cups. When I lit the Shabbat candles, a wave of peace
washed over me. With all that had transpired, I was warmed by the
notion that the world stops with the first flicker of Sabbath light.

Over a traditional Shabbat feast, the rabbi enchanted us with tales of
the Baal Shem Tov and informed us that our re-route to Milwaukee was
due not to the world of weather but of Divine providence.

We lingered over our meal, enjoying our spiritual sanctuary in time
after the stressful day. Zemirot (Shabbat songs) filled the room. We
shared disappointments about our unexpected stopover. Most of the
group was traveling to Chicago for their friend’s aufruf (“calling up”
the groom to the Torah on the Shabbat before a wedding) and wedding
and were missing the aufruf. The Chasid and his wife were missing a
bar mitzvah.

We pondered the meaning of the departure from our journey and marveled
at the coincidences. I had attended camp with my roommate, a couple
had conducted business with my father, a man had studied in yeshiva
with my cousin, the chasid used to work in my hometown of Aurora,
Ill., and I had once spent Purim in Crown Heights with my hosts’ son.
Exhausted as we were, everyone was hesitant to leave the table to go
to sleep.

The next morning, a lively tefillah was followed by a leisurely meal
where we exchanged stories about our lives, careers and dreams. We
nicknamed ourselves the Milwaukee 15 and wondered if future
generations would retell the story of the flight that didn’t make it
in time for candlelighting.

The story does not end with a bang. No, the airplane that was delayed
and left without the fifteen observant Jews did not crash. There is no
proclamation “You see, if we would have violated Shabbat and taken the
flight we would have been doomed.” The story end quite ordinary, but
it bring some important points about our obligations to G-d and how we
observe and obey as a nation, a chosen nation.

“Saturday night, we made a regretful journey to the everyday world.
But before we began the final leg of our journey, I called my husband
to tell him all that had transpired.

“Who did you spend Shabbat with?” he asked worriedly. I pondered how
to explain who these former strangers were who had given me object
lessons in Shabbat hospitality and in the power of Shabbat in bringing
Jews together.

And, then as swiftly as a 747 can leave the tarmac on a clear day, I
realized the truth: miles away from my parents, husband and home, I
had accomplished what I set out to do when I booked my ticket: I had
spent Shabbat with family.


The Jubilee year is the year at the end of seven
cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical
regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of
land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the
49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as
the Sabbath’s Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year.
Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights.
According to Vayikra, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would
be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.
Therefore the standard six year term of slavery would be prematurely
terminated with the advent of Yovel. Even those who had voluntarily
committed themselves to continued slavery upon the conclusion of their
six year term were slaves no longer once Yovel arrived. Over the
course of time, many family fields would be sold. Yovel would
automatically return the land to the original owners.

Business, Wall street, the Diamond district, Real Estate, money, our
lines get blurred when it comes to ownership. That’s mine. I’ve earned
it. I’ve got to earn more. Life gets so busy; we find that we never
have a free moment. Time is money.

We see that Yovel was certainly a proclamation of freedom for many but
why is it described as a proclamation of freedom for all of its
inhabitants? How do all Jews benefit from Yovel?


Shabbat is the Jewish tool to make sure we don’t misunderstand our
place in the universe. Refraining from work is the first step toward
accomplishing this goal. God gave mankind the power to manipulate and
change the world. Because of this, we are easily lulled into thinking
that we are in control of the world.

Then comes Shabbat. Once every seven days, we step back from the world
and make a statement to ourselves and humanity that we are not in
charge of this world. We stop all creative work and acknowledge that
it is God’s world, not ours. We can manipulate the world, but we don’t
own it. God gives us clear guidelines for how we may shape the world,
but it’s not ours to do with as we see fit all the time.

When we refrain from work on Shabbat, we regain clarity and
understanding as to Who is the true Creator.

According to Rav Moshe Shternbuch, Yovel grants a person a clear
perspective. I’m the master over no one and no thing. Hashem appoints
me for a stint and then it passes on to someone else. I got a great
deal on that field, now it goes back to its owner. This servant really
had my home running smoothly, he now returns to his home. The soul had
become subservient to the physical needs being over-filled – it is now

On the fiftieth year, freedom is proclaimed in the land for all of its
inhabitants. Each and every individual prioritizes. There’s a sense of

The foundation and basis of all of Jewish faith and belief in its
Torah is the necessity of human acknowledgment of God’s role in our
lives and in His ability to instruct us how to live. Since the weekly
Sabbath sometimes is taken for granted for it becomes such an
accustomed and regular part of our existence, the seven year Sabbath
comes to jolt us out of our complacency and to have us recognize
clearly, once again God’s rule over us.

The only way to get close to G-d is if we take the first step.
Interestingly ever notice why on Shabbat we learn Torah better, the
food is more delicious. The reason is there is no intermediary, no
angels between us and the Master of the Universe. For this reason we
recite Shalom Alechem in the beginning of the Shabbat. We say
BTZETCHEM L’SHALOM we escort the week day angels out of our house for
now it’s us and him just the two of us.

Regarding that according to the Torah Shabbat is an OT – a sign, the
Chofetz Chaim tells over a parable:

When one passes by a store front and the doors are locked, he assumes
they are closed. When he passes by the next day and sees the fixtures
missing, he does not jump to conclusions that perhaps they’re out of
business, maybe they’re are doing renovations. But, when he sees that
the sign is no longer there then he comes to the conclusion they are
out of business.

When the world sees that the Jews are keeping the Shabbat they know
the sign is up and they’re still in business.

The closer you are to G-d

Walk the Walk Talk the Talk – Thats Life

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of    Yossi Bilus, Asher Hurzberg,
Baruch Dopelt, Dovid Hoffman- Queens Jewish  Link

The story is told of a Jerusalem Torah scholar (Yerushalmi) from Meah Shearim, who was studying a certain topic and realized that he needed a rare sefer-book that was not commonly found in most yeshivot and shuls.  He knew that in the large central library in Jerusalem there was an extensive collection of rare holy books, and decided to go there in the hopes of locating the sefer.  As this was to be an all-day outing for him, he packed himself a lunch – an egg sandwich – and headed off to the library.
In the early afternoon, he began to feel faint; that was his hunger sign.  It was time for lunch and he performed the customary of washing of the hands and ate his sandwich.  Afterward, he donned his hat and recited birkat hamazon in a loud voice and with great fervor.  This raised a few eyebrows, but this was how he prayed and it didn’t faze him a bit.  When he finished the Grace after Meal, however, the librarian, a non-religious young woman, came over to him and pointed out that he had made a mistake in his recitation.  In shocked silence he listened as she explained that in the third blessing of birkat hamazon, the text reads, “That we may not be shamed nor humiliated.”  However, as he recited quite loudly for all to hear, she distinctly heard him say, “We may not be shamed nor shall we stumble,” which is not found in any siddur.
 The Yerushalmi gentleman, who was used to saying this version from when he was a child, wrapped his payos around his ears and got to work searching through every prayer book he could find in the library.  None of them had his version.  He was shocked and dismayed, but he would not give in to this non-religious young woman so easily.  He promised the librarian that he would find his version in a siddur somewhere and when he does, he will send her a copy of the page.  Then, he beat a hasty and embarrassed retreat from the library – but he didn’t go home!  He went from place to place searching …
 It took many days of searching in many different synagogues, but he finally found an old sefer where, in the Haggadah shel Pesach, it had his version.  Triumphantly, he copied the page and highlighted the relevant words, adding red arrows around the words so that she wouldn’t miss it.  Then, he mailed it to the library, but since he didn’t know the woman’s name, he requested that the library give it over to the librarian who was working in this certain room on this particular day and time.  After he accomplished his mission, he forgot about the whole episode, and put it out of his mind.
Quite some time later, the Yerushalmi gentleman received a wedding invitation, but to his puzzlement he realized that he didn’t know the groom nor the bride.  His curiosity got the better of him and, on the day of the wedding, he stopped in to the hall, where he looked around and confirmed that he didn’t know anybody there.  He assumed it was a mistake and was on his way out.
At that very moment, he heard someone scream, “Wait!” and he turned around to see none other than the bride herself running toward him.  “Don’t you recognize me?” said the bride to the baffled Yerushalmi, who responded in the negative.
 “I am the librarian who had the discussion with you about Grace after Meal,” she said with great feeling.  “You should know that it is only in your merit and the letter that you sent me that I repented and am marrying an observant Jew who learns Torah.”  She then went on to describe the amazing chain of events that brought about such an upheaval in her life.
 “At the time you came to the library, I was dating an Arab man.  We were thinking of marriage, but despite the fact that I wasn’t religious, I was still very wary about marrying out of my Jewish faith.  He finally sent me a letter with an ultimatum.  If I did not give him a final response by a certain day and hour, then there would be nothing more to talk about.
 “When that day came, I was going insane with my dilemma, not knowing what to do.  I arrived at the library in a daze and entered my room, and saw your letter on the table.  I opened it up and saw two words surrounded by red arrows highlighted in red: ‘we shall not stumble.’  I almost fainted!  At that very moment, all my doubts were resolved.  I knew that it was forbidden for me to marry him, to stumble so sharply.  I notified the Arab – and promptly severed our relationship!”  The bride’s face glowed with an inner shine.  “Not too long afterward, I repented completely and here I am – marrying a repentant Jew!”
Why was the girl so hesitant to marry the Arab?  If she cared so much about marrying outside the faith why did she permit herself to date him in the first place? Perhaps, she didn’t perceive the relationship would progress to such an extent. Nevertheless, she wasn’t religious and it wasn’t important to her. Why then did guilt enter the picture?  Could it be that she really didn’t love him and subconsciously was finding an excuse to break off the relationship. Did she really feel it was a sign from heaven or just fishing for an excuse?  However, one can deduce that her feelings were genuine for she became and married a ba’al teshuva. So what then propelled her to react that way when she received “THE SIGN FROM G-D?”  Perhaps, if we look in this week’s Torah reading, the story will be more clear.
The parsha begins: “If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant you rains in their season…”
 That is the standard translation of this opening verse. But a more literal translation would begin not, “If you follow My laws,” but rather, “If you walk in My laws.” Most translators understandably choose the word “follow” over the literal “walk” in this context.
 But the Midrash takes a different approach. It retains the literal “walk,” and links it to the phrase in Psalms 119:59 which reads, “I have considered my ways, and have turned my steps to Your decrees”. After linking the verse in our Torah portion with this verse from Psalms, the Midrash continues, putting these words into the mouth of King David: “Master of the universe, each and every day I would decide to go to such and such a place, or to such and such a dwelling, but my feet would bring me to synagogues and study halls, as it is written: ‘I have turned my steps to Your decrees.'”
What essentially King David is saying is an integral part of our relationship with G-d and a valuable lesson in life. For we were designed “to walk the walk and talk the talk”. It’s our nature to be constantly “on the GO”.  Remember those lyrics from a famous song:
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
 That is our mission in life. We are not Angels who are described and labeled “OMDIM” -“standing”. Their essence is a non-growth role. On the other hand: our essence is “HOLCHIM”- “to go” as hinted in numerous places in the Torah.
Interestingly, we follow a book of laws, the Shulchan Aruch and we’re always commenting “that is the HALACHA”.  It comes from the same root as our subject; it means “the walk”. That is a strange phrase to describe our holy book of laws, don’t you think? “What is the halacha?-what is the walk?” It seems a little odd. What can we deduce from the various times the expression “walk” is presented in the Torah?  The lesson is through our walking and performing the laws, for it is HALACHA to do so. This is the essence of our function in life. Quality walking is essential.
 It’s also no coincidence that one of the first commandments given to the first Jew, Avraham was LECH LECHA- go to you”. In other words – “go, discover you essence”. G-d is instructing him to understand the reason why he was put on this universe. So he instructs him to go. Where should he go?  G-d led him to land of Israel. The Kli Yakar writes in his commentary, “G-d was referring to the Temple Mount for that is the root, for that is where the souls are constructed”. This is where he and his offspring will receive the proper frequency and spirituality for the Temple Mount is the factory of which the whole world is formed. No wonder everyone is fighting over it.
 Now, how will Avraham achieve such growth? How will he reach such a lofty level?  Seemingly, he will reach it through life’s journey and discovering the world. He will go where no man has gone before; he will travel and explore through his experiences.
Rashi informs us in the beginning of the parsha that the achievement – the walk has to be chaperoned with the guidance of the Torah. This is what we should be guided with in our journey. As it says in the famous SHEMA which we are commanded to read twice daily-UVELECHTECHA BADERECH – when you walk on the road.
 However, what is inevitable is that life is not always smooth sailing. We all have our ups and downs. One should know what the psalm referring to King David is saying that there is a homing device in each one of us which sets off an alarm. There is a text alert to go back and grab your heritage. There is a satiating desire to join a shiur and drink a nice cup of tea. There is a longing in all of us to explore our heritage. The homing device made sounds where the librarian screamed in her heart “wait, I’m confused”. In her situation there was a spark from G-d’s messenger “Do not stumble”. The message was to follow G-d’s ways.  There are many times when one doesn’t feel worthy to touch base with his Jewishness, therefore the message that the librarian saw “do not stumble” applies to all of us. One should not despair; one has to pick up the pieces and continue his walk.
 There is a touching story about the Imri Emet- Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (December 25, 1866 – June 3, 1948). Rabbi Avraham would take the long route to get home from Yeshiva every day. His students asked him why you don’t take the known and popular shorter cut.  He answered, “In the route that I walk I pass by an outdoor workplace where many Bolsheviks work. Many of them are Jews. Although we wish all Jews to return to their heritage, it seems like they’re committed to their cause. “
Rabbi Avraham was a Rabbi who looked the part and when he walked into a room everyone felt his presence. “I walked past the Jewish Bolshevik’s workplace and they tip their hat out of respect. Perhaps that is the only good deed, the only merit they will have when they eventually depart this world. Or, perhaps, they might be curious about something and approach me. Therefore, I have to do my part. I have to do my walk for one never knows where it may lead”, he said.
Interestingly, the Yerushalmi Gentleman that infamous day went on a mission. He did his walk, walking with the Torah banner, lunch and all. The rest G-d arranged…………We have to do our part and the rest is up to G-d!