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This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s , Yissachar Frand, Lenny Bromberg, Yossi Bilus, Aaron Tendler, David Hochberg, Pinchas Avruch  and
Dr. Abba Goldman, also Mr. Emanuel Aminov
 Har Nof
Passion can be construed in many ways. We saw this past week the ugly side of passion, a passion based on hate, where the evil Arabs MACHSHEMAM butchered our brethren in a Bet Haknesset in Har Nof, Israel. However, it can be very complex, as we will see from  recent current events.
A doctor,  Craig Spencer, in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea became the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.
 Dr. Spencer recalled that in his five weeks in West Africa, “I cried as I held children who were not strong enough to survive,” but that he also had celebrated with those who were cured and “invited me into their family as a brother.”
Spencer posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing protective gear and wrote, “Off to Guinea with Doctors. Please support organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history.”
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center said in a statement that Spencer “went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population. He is a committed and responsible physician who always put his patients first.”
Seventy percent of Ebola cases in West Africa are fatal, but eight of the nine people treated in the United States have recovered. Dr. Bassett said a key reason was the labor-intensive job of managing body fluids and replenishing lost blood, allowing the body’s own defenses to kill the virus.
 However, what tends to happen at times, when one does a passionate good deed, we learn in King Solomon’s  Mishlei; Passion can blind you; it blinds the smartest people. Once you think you’ve scored brownie points, one thinks he has a licence to do whatever he wants.
 Spencer didn’t follow protocol. He lied to the police and told them he didn’t go anywhere when he arrived back. He actually went to few parties. He did not care that he might be carrying the infectious disease.
Passion – strong and barely controllable intense  emotion, compelling enthusiasm or desire for anything.  It’s a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing.
Dr. Craig Spencer had a passion!!  He left his job  as a doctor at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, a prestigious job in the medical field, to travel to West Africa and risk his life to treat a deadly virus.
Passion, sometimes even momentary, can change ones life, sometimes in a drastic way. Doctor Goldman, Psychologist at Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim said that President Bill Clinton’s affair with his aid Monica Lewinsky not only had a very negative effect on his legacy, but a rippling damaging reaction on a country. Reports indicate that his cabinet and staff lost faith in his ability to command. As result, they became lethargic in their duties. They felt betrayed defending their leader who then without informing them confessed to the country of his misdeeds. This is all in result of moments of perhaps passion, or perhaps just flimsy moment of desires.
Passion can change a life time of achievements.   Our forefather Yaacov had an evil brother, Eisav, however he had one virtue, one good deed, that he passionately performed most of his life. In fact many Torah Scholars marveled  at his performance  and encourage us to emulate this one mitzvah, which he did. He honored his father to the highest level.  The Torah tells us that Yitzchak loved Eisav. And Eisav loved him back. He respected his father and served him faithfully. The Sages even deem  his act of “honoring parents” greater than that of his brother Yaakov’s. And so Yitzchak requested Eisav to “go out to the field and hunt game for me, then make me delicacies such as I love, and I will eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4). Yitzchak wanted to confer the blessings to him. Eisav won his father’s regard. And even when Esav found out that his brother, Yaakov beat him to the blessings, he did not yell at his father,  “How did you let him do that?!” All he did was “cry out an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!” (ibid v.34). Yitzchak finds some remaining blessing to bestow upon his older son, but the grudge does not evaporate. What troubling  is not the anger of defeat or the desire for revenge, rather the way Eisav expressed it. “Now Esau harbored hatred toward Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau thought, “May the days of mourning for my father draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.” “May the days of mourning for my father draw near” Think about it. How did the love for a father turn into the eager anticipation of his death?

Passions overrule sanity. They even overtake years of love and commitment. When one is enraged, he can turn against his best friend, his closest ally, and even his own parents! Eisav, who spent his first 63 years in undying adulation of his father, changed his focus in a burst of emotion. Now, instead of worrying about his father’s fare, he awaited the day of his farewell. All in anticipation of the revenge he would take on Yaakov.
When passions perverse our priorities, and obsessions skew our vision, friends become foes and alliance becomes defiance. In the quest for paranoiac revenge, everyone is an enemy even your own parents. But mostly your own self.

  Furthermore, Eisav married his uncle Yishmael’s daughter, an act that his parents favored, however, he did not divorce his two wives which his parents greatly disapproved.  Seemingly, his passion for those women were still burning.
  One of the most famous and endearing story line in our Torah is the one when Avraham is commanded to sacrifice his son. At the end, though, G-d withdrew his command to slaughter his son. Sforno  explains “instead of his son: in exchange for that which was in his heart to offer his son, a ram was then brought. Avraham had  to maintain the faithfulness to that which he had previously committed in his heart.” Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler finds this amazing: G-d gave Avraham the command to bring Yitzchak (Isaac) up on the altar as a test, for just as G-d had commanded Avraham to bring him, he was commanded to remove him. There is a strong determination to perform an act of passion and Avraham viewed this act as a spiritual opportunity.  Once one initiates  an act of passion and enthusiasm, it’s very hard to stop.The “commitment” that Avraham made to bring his son as an offering was in error, a colossal misunderstanding. Nevertheless, notes Rabbi Dessler in Sforno’s words, without an alternative vehicle with which to serve G-d, Avraham would have been dishonest to his commitment to serve. Indeed, Rashi explains that the ram was “instead of his son” because Avraham literally requested that G-d view each act – from the slaughter through each subsequent step – as if it was performed in his son’s stead. Rabbi Dessler notes that Avraham was correlating every action to his original intent and commitment. That even though he was absolved by nothing less than a Divine decree, Avraham was concerned with fulfilling his “obligation”.
Why such a burning passion? Because Avraham realized that this was not simply some contractual obligation that was now moot because the contract was revoked. This was the ultimate of Avraham’s Divine trials. But these trials did not test Avraham’s G-d consciousness, they FORGED it. This opportunity was presented to Avraham to allow him to transcend his human condition and offer his entire future to G-d in His service. Avraham very keenly appreciated this unparalleled opportunity and knew he was bound to follow through. And G-d agreed, such that He built this parallel chance into Creation.
 The  Satan, though,  was also rather aware of this unique circumstance, for it was he who entangled  the ram’s horns in the bushes to brake the momentum and defuse the passion of Avraham.
  Passion can be powerful and sometimes has to be curtailed. The book of Devarim, the last of the 5 books of the Torah, is replete with warnings against idolatry, but perhaps the parashah in which the repetitiveness is most obvious is Parashas Va’etchanan. Dozens of pesukim – including nearly one third of the pesukim in the second rendering of the Ten Commandments – contain numerous admonitions not to serve idols.
Nowadays, these warnings seem unnecessary.  Almost no sane humanbeing today has any interest in worshiping a graven image of any sort. In fact, it seems strange to us that anyone ever had such a passion.

Truthfully, our utter disinterest in idol worship is not a credit to our advanced, developed intelligence or our purer faith in G-d. The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, a group of 120 sages, some of the greatest Torah scholars ever, convened during the era of the second Temple and determined that the inclination to serve idols was too strong for mankind to withstand. The Talmud (Yoma 69b) relates how the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah captured the yetzer hara-evil inclination for idolatry and destroyed it.
We can still have an idea of how strong the inclination for idolatry was before they conquered it. The Talmud tells us that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah was encouraged by their success in conquering one of the two major passions of mankind, so they decided to turn their sights on the other major passion: the inclination for promiscuity.
When the sages succeeded in capturing the passion for promiscuity, however, they came to the realization that if they destroyed this passion people would no longer procreate, so they released it.
We are all aware of how difficult it is to control the inclination for licentiousness. Our Sages teach us that people once had an equal passion to serve idols.
 So, the Chachamim dissolved a major passion but left us with another. G-d created an extremely powerful attraction and passion between the sexes. It exists and cannot be ignored. The Rabbis explain that G-d did this in order to perpetuate the human race. Without desire and attraction, people would not reproduce and the world would remain desolate. Therefore, He created this intense desire between men and women.
 Here is one scenario where people for the most part are vulnerable, the workforce. One is especially vulnerble when there are bumpy roads in the marriage. For the most part one can say, who doesn’t have bumpy moments in their marriage. Mind you can develop in a crowded office environment but once one is alone with the other, that stuation can accelerate the passion.
You may like her. She may like you. Obviously, both of you have lines that you will not cross when it comes to inappropriate behavior. You have self-respect and know that you will keep to those guidelines. You know that you would not be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next day if you crossed your line, whatever your particular line may be. Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself alone with him or her. You glance at each other. The attraction and desire is there. No one is around and no one will know. Everyone has a vulnerable moment. What will you do? Will you cross your line? How far? How will you feel the next day? What will it feel like, knowing that your line, your boundary that you always said you wouldn’t cross, has just been violated?
Some of you may be say, I am stronger than that and will never cross my line, no matter what. That may be true, but lets ask ourselves something: Which requires greater self-control; controlling yourself when you are never alone together or controlling yourself when you are alone in a room with him or her AND the attraction is there? The Torah is providing you with a boundary that does not require superhuman self-control on your part. It is protecting you from moments of vulnerability, when you may do something you may feel badly about later. Don’t be alone together. Let’s be honest here. It is a lot more difficult to control yourself from acting inappropriately when you are alone together than when you aren’t. Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to rely on greater self-control. Don’t play near the edge of a cliff. True, nothing may happen, but why take the risk? Don’t forget, you have to face yourself in the mirror tomorrow. Make it easy on yourself.
 We learn something valuable from Yaacov, our forefather. Yakov’s blessing to Shimon and Levi as he lay on his deathbed was intended as directive, not just critical. Shimon and Levi had displayed enormous devotion and courage in defending the honor of the family, even if it was misguided. They decieved and destroyed the entire city of Shechem avenging the rape of their sister Dina. Yakov’s “blessing” of Shimon and Levi was intended to direct that same devotion and courage into constructive channels. As the Pasuk says, “Into their conspiracy I will not enter, with their congregation I will not join.” (49:6) Because they did not first seek Yakov’s advice and direction, he would not have anything to do with their actions. However, if Yakov’s teachings and truth would direct their passion and strength, they would be indispensable to the nation’s survival.
 Passion, at times, can be channeled in the right way. One has to realize the power of it. In a moment, one can act on it and regret a life time. Passion, if used right, can elevate one to a lofty level. The key is to be aware of our feeling  as well as anticipate what we will be feeling when we will be faced with life challenges!

Important tips before marriage

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s ,Baruch Doppelt, Yossi Bilus, Noach Isaac Oelbaum and Dr. Abba Goldman

Who doesn’t like going to a wedding? We all do, but why? For one, we are supporting the union of two people; it’s a start of a new family. That’s exciting!! Secondly, we have a chance, if we come early enough, to enjoy the delicacies at the smorgasbord.  Some of us have it planned, by knowing the caterer before hand, what food station to go to first when arriving at the hall (Meisner’s meatballs, Letterman’s shishkabob). Furthermore, in our hectic habitual lifestyle we have a chance to see our friends and have a good time.

 Let me ask you a personal question, have you ever gotten emotional at the wedding ceremony – the chuppah. When I was younger I would always try to hide my emotions even though, I must say, some chuppahs were touching. However, I could not let my guard down, I felt it would ruin my manly image. As time passed on, the manly image didn’t seem very important anymore. Today, I look at that as sheer nonsense. Seeing the chattan and kallah brings to light a certain thrill of humanity. As time moves forward, it’s inevitable that one has seen  his measure of pain and anguish in the course of his existence and watching a beautiful moment of life brings out an abundance of joy in us through tears.
We recite seven brachot in honor of the chattan and kallah at the chuppah. It seems like our Sages devised these blessings in a way that it is just that, blessings. We have to understand what they mean and be aware of its strong implications. For example, an obvious question is found in bracha 5 and 6:. שַׂמַּח תְּשַׂמַּח רֵעִים הָאֲהוּבִים, כְּשַׂמֵּחֲךָ יְצִירְךָ בְּגַן עֵֽדֶן מִקֶּֽדֶם: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ-יָ, מְשַׂמֵּֽחַ חָתָן וְכַלָּה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ-יָ אֱלֹהֵ-ינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה, חָתָן וְכַלָּה, גִּילָה רִנָּה דִּיצָה וְחֶדְוָה, אַהֲבָה וְאַחֲוָה שָׁלוֹם וְרֵעוּת, מְהֵרָה יְ-יָ אֱלֹהֵ-ינוּ יִשָּׁמַע בְּעָרֵי יְהוּדָה וּבְחוּצוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָיִם, קוֹל שָׂשׂוֹן וְקוֹל שִׂמְחָה, קוֹל חָתָן וְקוֹל כַּלָּה, קוֹל מִצְהֲלוֹת חֲתָנִים מֵחֻפָּתָם, וּנְעָרִים מִמִּשְׁתֵּה נְגִינָתָם: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ-יָ, מְשַׂמֵּחַ חָתָן עִם הַכַּלּ
6)Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old. Blessed are You L-rd, who gladdens the groom and bride
7)Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who created joy and happiness, groom and bride, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight, love, friendship, harmony and fellowship. L-rd our G-d, let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride, the sound of exultation of grooms from under their chupah, and youths from their joyous banquets. Blessed are You L-rd, who gladdens the groom with the bride.
There is a question – what’s the difference or the meaning behind blessing  #6 which ends with “who gladdens the groom and -(VEH) the bride” as appose to in blessing #7  “gladdens the groom with-(IM) the bride”.  If the Sages make a distinction between the two,  “the VEH” in blessing #6 -and ….”with-IM” in blessing #7. Our Sages are very meticulous and thought conscience in what they write. One could rest and be sure that any scripture that is produced for prayers and blessings is cleverly devised..
 The Sages are teaching us a very important insight in marriage. In order to make your
bride – Kallah happy, one must first be happy himself. Only when he has shalom and tranquility with his state of mind, can he make another content.
It is noteworthy, too, that the Torah sets the standard of loving others using the self as the yardstick. Where do we find, asks the Sefat Emet, that there is a mitzvah to love oneself, that we are then commanded to love others to the same degree? And if indeed loving oneself is not a “mitzvah,” only an instinctive part of human nature, then how can the Torah use self-love as a benchmark by which to measure our love for our fellow man?
Perhaps the Torah is affirming one of the very basic tenets of psychology and human nature: The self-hater is not capable of feeling true love for others. In other words, it is not so much that self-love is a benchmark for loving others; it’s a prerequisite. In this context, when we speak of self-love, what we really mean is having a positive self-image, or what is today known as self-esteem.
So if the prerequisite for a happy marriage is being happy, one of the key elements having a happy marriage is found in this weeks parsha.
Finding a life partner is always a difficult task. I can be a witness to that being a frequent and reluctant participant in the New York Jewish frum singles scene. Often it felt grueling and humiliating attending those events. It was a tremendous pleasure to tell the matchmaker when they called to ask me if I want to date a certain girl, to take me off your list because I’m engaged!!!.  But imagine how much more difficult it must have been for Abraham to find a wife for his son – Isaac in ancient Canaan. The entire world was pagan except for Abraham, his family and a small group of his followers. Where was he to find a girl who would readily abandon her culture and embrace the Jewish way of life?
As we read in this week’s portion, Abraham sends his retainer Eliezer to Syria to seek out a wife among the other branches of his family. Eliezer arrives at his destination bearing gifts for the prospective bride and somewhat daunted by his mission. Standing beside the well in the town square, he prays to G-d that he be allowed to find a proper mate for Isaac.
Eliezer seems prepared for a grueling search, but lo and behold, no sooner does he finish praying that Rebecca instantly appears. She meets all the criteria for character and background.
There are certain parshiot in the Torah that are benchmarks for particular important  topics. Parshat Vayera is for harmony of marriage.  Vayeshev, Miketz and  Vayigash prone to envoke discussions of leadership. When parshat Chayeh Sarah came, many singles would flock to Rav Pam Shabbat afternoons lecture because they knew he, like many Rabbis would, talk about how to find the right  mate.
We know that Yitzchak had the characteristic of gevura-judgement. He had  a tremendous fear of G-d. That was his claim to fame. He was also quite personality, quite the opposite of his charismatic outgoing father. It’s funny how he was named Yitzchak-laughter. This is someone who was apparently “very serious” about life. His character certainly did not agree with his name. However, Rabbi Dopelt says “when one has the proper fear of G-d and is channeled correctly, he is so confident that everything comes from G-d, where any annoyance, bad omen that is presented in the course of ones life and marriage, for sure, is part and parcel of ones experiences, will not bother him. He will be in complete control knowing that it is G-d that is in control. When we say “fear of G-d”, the benchmark  is Yitzchak. For this reason, the Akeda, was Avraham, his father’s test and not his. One who’s characteristic is Gevura-judgment will not flinch at the prospect of sacrificing something so dear for G-d. Avraham’s character, on the other hand, was kindness, the antithesis of the Akeda. The frame of mind that Yitzchak had as a result of having the highest level of fear produced serenity and calmness which automatically spilled over to his marriage. The reason is, again, whatever happens in life is G-d sent.
 Rivka, as we study in the parsha, was crowned “wife of Yitzchak” because of the kindness she did with Eliezer. She passed his test, earned her stripes as kindness worthy to be in the house of Avraham.
Doctor Goldman says, if one has gone through psychological pain and is absorbed in agony, discomfort and depression they, for the most part,  will not be able to be reaching out to others. A giving person on the caliber of  Rivka had to have a makeup of  well put together person.
 There are 2 parts to the famous statement that the great scholar, Hillel, said  ” If I don’t take care of myself – no one will”, the second part “if the focus is myself – then what am I?”. The two statements go hand in hand, one has to be in peace with himself because, then, his task will be to take care of others.
 Rabbi Yossi Bilus attended a while back a lecture by Rav Pam on Chayeh Sarah. He tells over a powerful lesson that made an imprint on his life.
 Many times people date with hopes to find their partner in life. Many times people think they’ve graduated from “hoping to find” to “it’s happening”; “I’ve found my match”. They’re thinking – how many kids they are going to have and where to live. However, a short time later, the other party walks away not interested, leaving the person devastated and doomed. There are those that never get over the hurt.
 Eliezer is sure that he found Yitzchak’s mate to such an extent that the minute he seesRivka, he showers her with jewelry. But then he says something peculiar as later he meets Rivka’s family to discuss terms. In chapter 24 pasuk 49 he says ” And now if you want to do kindness and are interested – tell me if not I will turn to the right or left”. In other words, if you’re interested, great, if not I will look elsewhere. Wait!!! isn’t she the one!!! You put on her all that jewelry!! You anointed her “a wife for Yitzchak”!!   All that kindness, WOW!!! However, we see if it’s not working out, it seems like it’s not what G-d wants and we, no matter how sure we were, no matter how perfect it seemed,  have to move on!!
My mother would always say to me when I was dating, “every pot has a cover”. It was reassuring words. However, in order for that to happen, we have to be in peace with ourselves. We have to have the right frame of mind to make the great big step. We also have to let go of the ghosts in our heads of what it would have been like if the other party would have stayed. That was the past; we must look forward.


If one wants to succeed in life its important to have….

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Akiva Grunblatt, Yissachar Frand,Baruch Doppelt, Yossi Bilus,  Eliyahu Hoffman, Naftali Reich and Dr. Abba Goldman

It’s always uneasy and difficult when children don’t see eye to eye with their father and mother. It’s even more horrific and crazy when the children actually rebel against them and try to kill their parents; that’s a pretty nightmarish thought!!. Unfortunately, in our illustrious rich Jewish history a regrettable incident of that nature occurred. Avshalom wanted to overthrow his father, King David, and take over the kingdom. Avshalom meant business and drove his father out of Jerusalem. King David took refuge from Avshalom’s forces beyond the Jordan River having being put in a disadvantage position.
War is war and spies are a part of war as weapons are. In fact one can say spies are a vital weapon as any. David took the precaution of instructing a servant, Hushai, to infiltrate Avshalom’s court and subvert it. Hushai convinced Avshalom to ignore Ahithophel’s advice to attack his father while he was on the run, and instead prepare his forces for a major attack. This gave David critical time to prepare his own troops for the coming battle.
 It’s pretty apparent G-d was on David’s side because Ahithophel, who was considered one of the smartest men that ever live, was a sure bet when he advised. One can take his advice to the bank.
So the question is asked, how did Hushai do it?  How did he convince Avshalom over the logic and reputation of Achitofel?
There is an old expression:  When you have truth on your side – pound on the truth! When you have the law on your side – pound on the law! When you have neither….. POUND ON THE TABLE!
Hushai screamed out!!  He was temperamental, passionate and emotional. There was no logic and substance to his argument; he was just enthusiastically  charged. His apparent display  convinced Avshalom to follow his advice which eventually led to his downfall.
 After Avshalom made a decision to take Hushai advice, Ahithofel knew he was doomed; he knew Avshalom would lose. Ahithofel committed suicide.
What was so appealing to Hushai’s approach?
 Let’s examine an important aspect of human nature by looking into this weeks parsha.
An important  and puzzling observation is brought out about Avraham, our forefather. G-d reveals why he loved Avraham so much. We learn, it’s because Avraham possessed the uncanny ability to pass down the word of G-d quite successfully to the next generation. This is quite a revelation considering Avraham’s famous reputation in performing kindness. Furhtermore Avraham was the first one to discover G-d and he did it all by himself. Those are heavy duty credentials; those are big time browny points on the resume. However, it was the passing down the good word to his children and students that was the convincing soft spot in G-d’s heart.
What was the method he used? How was he so convincing?

I think, we would be able to understand a bit more of Avraham’s success by looking at a thought from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the leading Rabbis in America in the early part of 1900’s. He said ” one may be dismayed why so many of the generations that followed the migration from Eastern Europe to America did not keep Shabbat. Why were so many of American Jewish youth not Shabbat observers? Times were tough and it was mandatory to work on Saturday, in the early part of the century; however, many refused. That decision begot devastating results,  for most lost their jobs and the rest were at the mercy of their bosses. One would think that since these precious Jews made such sacrifices their children would notice the value of the Shabbat. Wouldn’t they realize how important it meant to their parents and therefore consider it vital to keep? ….Apparently, that wasn’t so.

 Rabbi Moshe says, the answer can be found in the Torah and we say the phrase in the kiddush and various times during the Shabbat. V’SHAMRU B’NAI YISRAEL ET HASHABBAT, LA’ASOT ET HASHABBAT L’DOROTAM-and the children of Israel observed the Shabbat, they did-observed the Shabbat for generations. Rabbi Moshe relates “It’s HOW they observed. Let me rephrase that, it’s what their attitude was when they observed. If they observed with the mindset “we sacrificed a lot and are devastated”. Then the children would look at their parents’ negative disposition towards Shabbat and always remember being observant as agonizing! However, if one feels enthusiastic and makes the Shabbat experience happy, then the kids would feed off the warmth and positive attitude!
 There was a famous Rabbi who was asked “how is it that your children are not as observant as you?”. He answered ” because I didn’t sing Shabbat songs at the Shabbat table”. There is a certain joy and enthusiasm associated with singing and it’s a tremendous weapon to enhance the Shabbat and that was lacking at my Shabbat table, he said. It’s not just the intellectual aspect of Judaism. We need an emotional injection as well.
 Let’s examine how the Torah describes Avraham’s actions and attitude. If one notices the word V’YEMAHER – “and he hurried”  is used a number of times. Furthermore the scripture says ” and Avraham got up early in the morning. All this denotes Avraham had a tremendous energy and zeal. However, it also says that he saddled his own donkey. Why would a man of his age and affluence saddle his own donkey? Rashi says “this is sign that Avraham did many of his tasks with enthusiasm”.
Perhaps Avraham was a man of haste; maybe he was a spur of the moment type of guy. A verse regarding the Akeida [the sacrifice of Isaac] says, “On the third day Avraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from a distance” [22:4]. The Medrash Tanchuma asks “why G-d waited until the third day, and did not show the place to Avraham on the first or second day”. The Medrash answers: “The purpose of waiting three days was so that the nations should not think that Avraham was seized by a momentary frenzy, in which he was overcome by emotion and did not have time to reflect on what he was doing. Avraham Avinu had plenty of time to think about the Akeida. For three days he walked and thought it over. But that was Avraham. He was not a flighty man of emotion whose spirit grabbed him for the moment.

This was not the case with our Patriarch Avraham. The pasuk is telling us that Avraham was not merely the type of person who rushed into something on the spur of the moment. His enthusiasm maintained itself beyond the stage of the knee-jerk reaction. Even upon reevaluation — giving the situation a second look, so to speak — he remained determined to offer kindness and hospitality. His attribute of kindness emerged not only from emotion (the first sighting) but from rational consideration, as well (the second sighting).

How many of us remember getting really excited and enthusiastic about something. 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.
Interestingly there was a meeting between Malchi Tzedek, the elder statesman and one well respected in his generation,  with Avraham where bread and wine was emphasized at their meal.
Bread, is only good when it’s fresh. But go to your local vintner, and ask him for a “good fresh bottle of wine,” and watch him cringe in utter distaste. Ask any Frenchman worth his baguette: A fresh-baked loaf of bread, and a chilled bottle of aged wine, these are the components of any gourmet meal. The fresher the bread, and the older the wine, the more the palate takes delight. The Torah describes Avraham in his older years: “And Avraham was old – he had come with his days. (Bereishis 24:1)” This means, that Avraham brought the days of his youth with him into his elder. Normally, youth carries with it the advantage of energy and enthusiasm. As one gets on in his years, he loses the vigour of his youth, but is graced with the wisdom and maturity that come with age. Rare is the individual who can retain the vitality of his youth even as the candles on his proverbial birthday cake fruitfully multiply. Yet, this was exactly what Avraham achieved. While by no means a youngster, he served G-d with the freshness and enthusiasm usually reserved for those still wet behind the ears. As a tribute to this unique combination of youth and age, Malchi-Tzedek served bread and wine, two foods that possess the opposite qualities of freshness and maturity, yet together form a meal pleasing to even the most refined tastebuds.

The story is told of a carpenter who was a master of his craft. He worked diligently for his company throughout his life, earning a wonderful reputation for his skill. Upon reaching retirement age, he informed his boss that he was ready to retire and draw upon his pension for his future salary. His boss implored him to carry out just one more project for him; to build an elegant mansion and to spare no expense in furnishing it. The boss then presented him with a vast sum of money with which to create a dream home.
The carpenter reluctantly acquiesced to his boss’s request but his heart was not really in his work. He would have preferred to start retirement as he had planned. His mind was constantly preoccupied with his vacation plans that he and his wife had carefully worked on. His usual expert work was below standard and in no way reflected his skills.
The wood he selected was of poor grade and the moldings were cheap and commonplace, not cut to perfection. At the conclusion of his work his boss appeared at the worksite for a tour of the home. As they began to tour the finished building together, the boss noted in disappointment the sloppy workmanship and the places where the builder had cut corners by substituting cheap inferior materials for those of better quality.
As they finished the tour, the boss turned to his worker and presented him with the keys to the house. “This home that you have built is a gift to you from the company,” he said, ” in recognition of all your years of devoted service.”
The carpenter was flabbergasted. Regret flooded through him as he realized the opportunity he had squandered. Had I only known that his house was meant for me, I would have done everything so differently, he thought. How could I have shortchanged myself so?
All too often we give to various charities and engage in worthy causes out of a sense of obligation. This may be praiseworthy but it will not secure us the ultimate blessing when we give of ourselves with genuine love and go beyond the call of duty.
Only then can we be assured that we are gracing our eternal home with accouterments and furnishings that reflect our true ability and worth and that we will enjoy for eternity.
One practical lesson we can use to spur our personal growth is to realize that in applying our energies to our life mission and our most important relationships, we must reach as high as we can. Like our forefather Avraham, we should not be satisfied with carrying out our minimum obligations.
Only when we invest true love and genuine dedication in a relationship will we attain a lasting, genuine bond. In order to succeed in life its important to have enthusiasm.

Would you be able to withstand the influence of others?

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

How true are you to yourself? When a decision is made, is it decided fairly? Would it be possible that outside forces influence the choices that one makes?  An important question has to be asked: How reliable are these outside forces? Do we have the power, the choice to avoid  them, to block them out if we determine a no good decision will result if these outside sources are factored in?


There was a motion picture, many years ago, based on a true story called “Donny Brosko.” The film depicts an undercover police officer who infiltrates the mob. In the beginning of his assignment, the officer wore his badge while not undercover with pride; “I’m doing the right thing” was the impression he conveyed.  There was a clear distinction between Right and Wrong – Good Guy versus Bad Guy. Dr. Goldman, the psychologist at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, says that even when there is a clear cut Right and Wrong, people are very sensitive and are affected by the social influences surrounding them! The spy is a lone believer in his values surrounded by those with diametrically opposed views. His only venue of expression is internal, given his hostile surroundings. This presents a major problem according to Dr. Goldman. While pretending to be somebody else with polar opposite values, often times the spy himself can wind up inevitably questioning his original set of values and ideologies. It takes a very high level of conviction and devotion to one’s own values to maintain such pretence over a period of time. “Frankly,” Dr. Goldman says, “it is almost impossible.” On a subconscious level, intellectual dishonesty does not sit well with human nature.
The police officer in the film did in fact begin to sympathize with some of the mob members. At a startling moment in the film, he smacks his wife which was tremendously out of character for his regular self. Was it possible that his true self was being sucked into his fictitious persona? Perhaps his intellectual armor was cracking and as with many, he begins to think and act like those around him. Perhaps he, like others, begins to actually embrace his new identity. After all, that’s the reason his superiors selected him in the first place, because they felt he would be “perfect” for the part.
At the conclusion of the film when the officer received his medal of citation for a successful mission by sending those mob members to prison, he conveyed an expression of uneasiness and a sense of guilt. What happened to his strong ideology? One has to realize the enormous difficulty of a spy’s mission. How difficult it is to maintain one’s beliefs and ideology in such an atmosphere!


It’s a scary thought to see one degenerate and act like the low life criminal which is quite contrary to one’s ideology. We often take pride in the hard work we have done to maintain a sophisticated, well mannered, educated and emphasizing strong Torah values. We like to label ourselves as Glatt-kosher because this is a value system we inherited from our parents or were taught by our Rabbis, teachers, society leaders. Can those ideologies change? Hey, we’re grown ups; we’re able to make our own rational decisions. Perhaps, that’s not so simple as it seams.


This is a testimony to that which the Rambam says [Hilchot Deos 6:1] (and that which is a sociological fact), namely “a person’s nature is to be drawn in his opinions and his actions after his friends and companions.” Man is the only creature who speaks. Man is a social animal who must interact, and in order to interact it is necessary for him to communicate. In order to communicate, man was given a form of intelligent speech. The downside of this trait is that man is greatly influenced by the speech and communication he receives from others. “Therefore,” the Rambam continues, “man must dwell amongst righteous and wise individuals so that he may learn from their actions and distance himself from the wicked who walk in the ways of darkness so that he not learn from their ways…” In short, the Rambam teaches that a person must be exceedingly careful regarding the company he keeps. Ultimately, a person will become who his neighbors and friends are. If the friends and neighbors are looking out for spiritual growth, then he too will grow spiritually. If the reverse is true, then the outcome will be reversed as well.


Sociological studies have been done where 20 people are in a room and 19 of the participants are “in” on the study and they are told to answer a question in a patently false way (e.g. – the orange is blue). Invariably, the 20th person, who is the actual subject of the study, when asked to answer the same question, answers it in a way that is absurd, just to make his answer correspond with that of everyone else in the room. So profound is the influence of society that something can be black and white and a person will change his response just to conform to everyone else!
Avery difficult to understand dialogue occurred between Avraham and Sarah in this week’s parsha.
“And it occurred, as he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai…”(12:11) As they approached Mitzrayim, Avraham asked Sarah to claim that she was his sister. This was to protect him from the Egyptians who might lust after Sarah, and kill him if they were to know that he was her husband.              Why is it necessary for us to know that this discussion transpired as Avraham and Sarah drew close to their destination? Why, in fact, was an issue of such gravity not discussed prior to their departure from Eretz Canaan? The Midrash explains that as they neared their destination, Avraham became aware of Sarah’s exceptional beauty. Why is this the juncture where Avraham becomes aware of his wife’s beauty? Mitzrayim was a country notorious for the immoral and lascivious behavior of its inhabitants.3 Generally, an individual living in such a society would be affected, even if he himself would not indulge in any perverse behavior. Perhaps the Torah is teaching us that although a tzaddik of Avraham’s caliber would not be dragged down by the immorality of the society where he lives, the influence of the society does have a subtle effect on him. In Avraham’s case, this manifested itself in his becoming aware of his wife’s beauty.

1.12:11 2.Tanchuma 5 3.20:15

What is mindboggling; what is the nuance is Avraham and Sarah have not entered Egypt yet!!!  They have not set foot on the degenerate soil. How then can the environment have influenced them? We can understand, perhaps, if they stayed just one night, there would be the air of contamination, however, they not only didn’t enter the ring, they didn’t enter the building.
Doctor Goldman is making us aware of a tremendous insight of human psychology. It seems like Avraham’s imagination ran ahead of him in anticipation of the kind of society they were about to embark. There were preconceptions going ahead on this difficult journey. It’s important to map out what we might expect as we embark on our trips. Similarly, when one is about to enter the aircraft taking him to the hot fun sun of Miami Beach; he will be wearing his Bermuda shorts and carry a beach ball under his coat; there will be constant thought of the warm sunny weather. His mindset is his spot on the beach. The cold weather of New York doesn’t bother him anymore. The snow outside the airport terminal is a non- factor. So we see: influence can occur before arriving.

We learn a very alarming aspect of our psychological make up. It seams like society has an impact on our decisions. Even more so, one is influenced just by the anticipation of entering that society and people!!
In the situation in our parsha,  Avraham was correct in his assessment of the Egyptian society. His intuitive perception saved their lives.
It’s important that one always have ready trustworthy advisers that perhaps might put the situation in the proper perspective and it’s also important that one anticipates future destinations and is well prepared for the next journey.

The world is build on kindness

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim
Baruch Doppelt,  Paysach Krohn

The world is built on kindness. This Shabbat we are honored to be part of history as the Jewish world is taking part in the Shabbat Project. Our fellow brethren will extend themselves spiritually by observing Shabbat as it was meant to be. It will be a day of commitment; it will be a day of unity; it will be a day of kindness. One of my favorite and memorable stories on kindness, which I often repeat whenever I get the opportunity to speak is one which I read from one of Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s books. The prime character in the story happens to be none other than Rabbi Krohn’s uncle –  Rabbi Yehuda Ackerman.


A Dance for the Ages’ 

This following story is one of the most remarkable I have ever heard. It was told to me by one of the central characters in the episode, my uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Ackerman, a Stoliner chassid now living in the city of Bnei Brak, Israel. The love and concern for a fellow Jew portrayed here are so genuinely touching that the story inspires all who hear it.
A number of years ago a wealthy individual came to Israel with his family for a few weeks’ vacation. He was just staying in the famous Central Hotel on Rechov Pines in Jerusalem, and that is where he had most of his meals.
One Friday night, after the seudas Shabbos, the gentleman was strolling back and forth outside the hotel where he noticed two chassidic boys rushing somewhere. “Where are you boys off to?” he asked, as they sped by.
“We’re on our way to the Stoliner Rebbe’s tish.” (The word “tish,” literally translated as “table,” is a term used for a gathering of chassidim around their Rebbe’s table.) The gentleman thought that it might be interesting to observe a tish and so he asked, as he hurried to catch up with them, “Do you mind if I come along?”
“No, of course not. But you must walk quickly,” they added, “because it is starting soon.”
The three of them rushed down Rechov Pines, made a right turn on Rechov Malchei Yisrael, and headed into the tiny streets of Meah Shearim toward the Stoliner shul.
The shul  was packed with hundreds of people who had already gathered to sing and bask in the Rebbe’s presence. The gentleman now detached himself from the two boys, shouldered his way through the crowd, found some room for himself in the back of the synagogue and stood there unobtrusively observing the scene.
My uncle, a fervent Stoliner chassid for decades, had come that week to Jerusalem to be with his Rebbe. He, too, was at the tish and was sitting close to the front. As he looked around the synagogue he searched for faces that were not among the “regulars.” It was then that he noticed the wealthy man in the back.
My uncle, aside from being a devout chassid of the Rebbe, is the founder and fundraiser of the Stoliner Yeshivah in Bnei Brak. Before Shabbos the Rebbe had told him that he must not leave Jerusalem before raising twenty-five thousand dollars for the benefit of the yeshivah, because the melamdim (teachers) were owed a great deal of back pay. Therefore, when my uncle saw the wealthy gentleman, he figured that he might be a good man to talk to.
Throughout the evening my uncle kept an eye on the man in the back of the shul. When he realized that the tish was about to end, he made his way towards him. My uncle, a jovial and robust individual, extended his hand and, with the broadest of smiles, said, “Gut Shabbos, Reb Yid. Welcome to Stolin. I believe I recognize you.”
My uncle knew quite well that this man had a reputation of being a philanthropist who supported many Jewish causes. He was hoping he could get him involved with his own cause.

The man looked at my uncle and replied, “Gut Shabbos. I believe I recognize you too.”
The two men spoke for a while and then my uncle asked, “Where are you staying, and how long will you be here in town?”
I’m staying at the Central and I’m leaving on Tuesday,” came the reply.
“May I bring some of my friends to you tomorrow night at the Central, and we will make a little Melaveh Malkah (festive meal held Saturday night)? We’ll sing a little, dance a little, tell some stories, have some good food. It will be beautiful.”
The philanthropist understood quite well what my uncle’s intention was, but still he smiled and said, “Fine. Come with your friends tomorrow night.”

The next evening, a little while after Shabbos ended, my uncle and three of his friends went to the Central Hotel and up to the gentleman’s room. They knocked on the door and waited, pacing back and forth as they worried that perhaps the gentleman had forgotten about the Melaveh Malkah or that something else had came up. After a few moments, however, the gentleman came to the door and invited them in.

For more than two hours they sang, told stories and relished the ambience of the evening. Finally the gentleman turned to my uncle and said, “Ackerman, what do you want from me? I know you didn’t just come here to sing and dance.”

My uncle smiled sheepishly and said, “You know something? You are so right. I didn’t just come to sing and dance. I came for a very important reason.” He then went on to explain the financial plight of the Stoliner Yeshivah and how, because of the economic hardships in Israel, the yeshivah was almost totally dependent on support from friends in America. “I need your help,” my uncle said seriously. “The Rebbe told me that I must raise twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Everyone in the room was quiet. The gentleman was deep in thought, his eyes closed as he reflected on the words my uncle had just spoken. “I’ll tell you what, Ackerman,” he said. “I’ll give you a donation now, and if you raise ten thousand dollars by tomorrow night, I will match it and give you another ten!”

My uncle and his friends could not believe their ears. It had never occurred to them that the gentleman would make such a gracious offer. They shook hands on the “deal” and a few moments later my uncle left the hotel to begin his efforts to raise the ten thousand dollars.

For much of the night and all of the next day my uncle ran from person to person, telling them that he had a golden opportunity to relieve Stoliner Yeshivah of a good deal of its financial burden if only they would help him. He collected cash, personal checks, money orders and traveler’s checks. He hardly rested for a moment, and by Sunday evening he was close to his goal.

Late Sunday night he made his way to the Central Hotel, went directly to the gentleman’s room and began piling all the money he raised on the table. They counted it, and sure enough – my uncle had met the goal! He had raised ten thousand dollars! The philanthropist promptly took out his checkbook and wrote a check to the Stoliner Yeshivah for ten thousand dollars. My uncle simply could not believe what was happening. For the first time in many years he was speechless.

As he began to thank the gentleman profusely for what he had just done, the gentleman said, “Aren’t you wondering why I did this?”

“Wondering?” my uncle blurted out. “To me this is a miracle. It’s like man min hashamayim (the food that fell miraculously from Heaven for the Jews in the desert.)”

“Sit down,” the gentleman said. “Let me tell you a story and then you will understand.”
“It was twenty-five years ago.” The gentleman began, “on the afternoon of my wedding day. I was so poor that my parents could not even afford to buy me a hat to wear to my chuppah. I lived in Williamsburg (an Orthdox neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York) at the time, so I walked to Broadway where there was a famous Jewish hat store. I went in and told the owner, “I’m getting married tonight, but my parents are poverty stricken and can’t afford to buy me a hat. Could you please do me a favor and give me a hat? I promise you that tomorrow morning I will come in and pay you with some of the money that I hope to get tonight as wedding presents.”

“The man behind the counter looked me over and then answered, ‘You look like an honest yeshivah bachur (student). I’ll give you the hat.’

“I was so happy and grateful to him, “continued the gentleman. “I walked outside and a few stores down was a liquor store, also owned by a Jewish man. I knew very well that my parents couldn’t afford any liquor for the wedding, so I went in and said to the man behind the counter, ‘I’m getting married tonight and my parents do not have money to buy any liquor. Would you be so kind as to give me a few bottles for the wedding? I promise that tomorrow morning I will come in and pay you from the money that I hope to get as wedding gifts.’
Here, too, the man looked me over and said the same thing the fellow in the hat store has said. ‘You look like an honest yeshivah bachur, I’ll give you the liquor.’
“He gave me the liquor and I walked out of the store with the hat in my right hand and the liquor in my left. I felt like a million dollars. I was ecstatic. I took just a few steps outside the store and there you were, Mr. Ackerman.
[My uncle, R’ Yehuda Ackerman, was known at the time as the most extraordinary dancer at Jewish weddings. Whenever he made his way into the middle of the circle where everyone was dancing, He became the focal point of frolic around which everything centered. Everyone in the hall would stop whatever they were doing just to watch him perform for the chassan and kallah. His body movements were elegant; his balancing acts; entertaining; his radiant smile ebullient, and his body’s comical coordination with the music the band was playing was incredible and legendary. Somehow he managed to become the physical embodiment of the musical notes emanating from the violin, clarinet and cordovox, which were popular at the time.]
“I saw,” the gentleman said, “that Hashem was so good to me in helping me get the hat and the liquor, so I figured that I would take my chances just one more time. I walked over to you and said, ‘Mr. Ackerman, I know you don’t know who I am, but I am getting married tonight. Would you mind coming to dance at my wedding?’

“You said that you couldn’t promise anything, but you took down my name and the name and address of the wedding hall. And that night, right in the middle of the wedding, you came running into the center of the circle where everyone was dancing and you danced so magnificently. The people loved it! You made everyone so happy and you helped make it the greatest night of my life. When it was over that evening, I swore to myself that someday I would repay you.”

Now, transversing all the years in between, the gentleman concluded. “Last night, when I saw you at the Stoliner Rebbe’s tish, I suddenly remembered what I had said to myself back then on my wedding night. I realized that now was the time to pay you back. That’s why I gave you the money.”
My uncle sat there astounded. He hasn’t remembered the wedding. He hadn’t remembered the wedding from so long ago, but he would never forget this Shabbos night in Jerusalem.

The story, however, did not end there. The next time my uncle was in the city where this generous gentleman lived, he heard that the man’s son was getting married. He waited until the middle of the wedding and then as he had done so many years earlier, he ran into the center of the circle where everyone was dancing, and he danced as he had, all those years before.
And as he did, he turned and saw the gentleman standing off on the side with a great smile across his face, and tears rolling down his cheeks. He ran over to the man and, as they embraced, the man said to my uncle, “How can I ever thank you? You’ve made me relive the greatest night of my life.”
The Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, uncalled-for and unreasonable hatred. Here, though, was an instance of poignant ahavas chinam, a talented individual dancing at the wedding of a young man whom he didn’t even know and never thought he would see again only because there was love…love of one Jew for another with no motive or incentive other than that they were both Jewish. May we all learn from this incredible story and merit together to see the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.
Reproduced from “Footsteps of the Maggid,” by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

 Devastating! the destruction of the world occurred.  The water was chosen to be the weapon of mass destruction; it rose and wiped out civilization. The only survivors in this extinction was a mere wooden ark navigated by the lone tzadic of his generation, Noach. Many are puzzled by the story of Noach.  Strangely, Noach and his family – a mere crew of eight – spent virtually every hour of every day for over a year tending to the needs of tens of thousands of animals, each and every one according to its own schedule and diet. This unparalleled selfless kindness was the spiritual lifeblood of the ark. And if but once in the hundreds of thousands of feedings and cleanups, Noach would be tardy, the results could be devastating. Indeed, the lion lashed out when Noach was once late, rendering him maimed for life.
Why was Noach and his family subjugated to such abnormal servitude? Furthermore, why did the destruction have to come through water?  Also, why was the devastation so widespread, everything and everybody was wiped out? Strange, it seemed like nothing was spared but the ark and its inhabitants.
Rabbi Baruch Dopelt brings an interesting parallel from the commentary the Bet HaLevi:
 There was a king who decided to habitat the palace with commoners as a sign of kindness and good will. He gathered an assortment of deaf mutes and very low intelligent people to reside in his castle. After a short time, these individuals, in their own way,  showed a tremendous amount of gratitude to the King for the hospitality. At every opportunity they would screech or clap their hands awkwardly with a happy grin to show their appreciation.
 The King thought if these deaf mutes and assortments show such affection, I’m sure highly intelligent-cream of the crop would greatly show appreciation to the highest degree. So he replaced the commoners with smart people.
 As time passed, though, these smart people began to rebel against the King and forced him out of the palace.
 The smart society underestimated the power of the king. He easily regained power and kicked out all the intelligent derelicts and replaced them with the commoners.
  The waters occupied the world before the creation of man. We read in the Friday evening Shabbat prayers (MIZMOR SHIR LE’YOM HASHABBAT) MIKOLOT MAYIM RABIM-the voice, singing, praise of the waters is great. They exalted G-d in a tremendous way. G-d said if the waters can praise me and show such affection to such an extent, can one imagine what an intelligent being like man can do? So in essence the waters response initiated the creation of man.  The upper and lower waters that were united were then separated to inhabit man on dry land.
 However, man rebelled and sinned against G-d proclaiming “there is no room for G-d in our lives”. G-d then brought back the commoners – the waters. This was the entity that appreciated G-d the way it should have been. The waters went  back to their original territory which was encompassing the entire globe and destroyed mankind. What remained was Noach and the selected few.

Why destroy the world?
The Torah hints through the scriptures that man had such an influence on nature whether during Noach’s time or even now. We learn  that the animals, during that generation, behaved in a degenerate way like the humans. The animals were cross breeding with other animals similarly like man’ decadent lifestyle. For this reason the animals had to be destroyed along with mankind. So it seems man can influence in a drastic level; he can bring an abundance of goodness to the world as well as evil. Instead of emulating G-d and showing kindness to their fellow man, they did the opposite. Stealing and the anti-unity was the trend.
The ark was a place where the actions of mankind had to rectified. It was to show extreme behavior the other way.  The couples  in the ark had to abstain from physical contact in contrast to “everything permissible” attitude they had been accustomed to before.
 Man’s interpersonal relationships was deeply degenerated before the flood. Concerns for others was not tolerated; every man for himself. Life in the ark, though, was different; Noach and his children had to perform the ultimate kindness to the lower form of creation, the animals. This act was extreme!! nevertheless the cleansing process had to be performed.
“Olam chesed yibaneh”  – the world will be built upon chesed-kindness. There is no  reason why this had to be. G-d could have chosen one of His other characteristics, and spun a world revolving around it. He chose chesed because it is closest to His Will. Similarly, when we are instructed to imitate His character (as fulfillment of the imperative “You shall walk in His ways”), the Sages limit this obligation to the character of chesed, but none other. It is through chesed alone that we attach ourselves to Him.


How are guests suppose to act?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Doppelt, Yossi Bilus

Competition in Humans is natural and beggars are no exception. There was a beggar who had his spot at a certain street corner. He set himself up with a table and sign and received on an average fifty cents from each patron who gave.
One day he decided to take the long way as he was walking to his spot. The beggar was baffled realizing that a fellow in his trait operating a different corner a few blocks away was receiving a dollar per person. He, then, asked the fellow ” I’m not your competition, since I’m a few blocks away, but I’m curious how are you able to receive 1 dollar? How do you do it?” The other beggar answered, “do you see my attire, I’m wearing a Chassidic outfit. Chassidim tend to get more money.”
So the next day the beggar trotted down to the clothing store and bought himself the right attire transforming himself, from head to toe, to a Chassid, “bekeshe” and all.
Low and be hold it worked; now the beggar also received $1.00.
A few months pass by and the beggar is visiting an old friend where he sees in the street a fellow in his profession receiving $5.00. He asked him as he was curious how he’s able to command such a price?
The fellow answered, “You see this sign, I tell them I’m from a long line of Chassidim whose genealogy stems from the great Rebbe the Ba’al Shem Tov”
So the next day the beggar hangs up a sign next to his table, “I come from a long line of Chassidim whose genealogy stems from the great rebbe the Ba’al Shem Tov.”
The sign worked!! People were placing $5.00 into his cup.
One day he sees a fellow beggar, a couple of miles away receiving $10.00 per person. WOW!! How is this guy able to get that amount?
The fellow reveals, I tell them “I’m a convert. They love converts.”
So the next day the beggar has a sign “I’m a convert and I come from the great Jewishlineage of the great Rabbi the Ba’al Shem Tov.”
He, then, recieved nothing. The people were ridiculing him. How can one be a convert and come from the great Jewish lineage? It’s contradicting!!

The story has a strong message as we just finished asking forgiveness from G-d, promised to improve ourselves and change our attitude toward life. Contradictions in our lives are tests we all have to encounter. This lesson is ever so the embodiment of the holiday of Sukkah.

I remember, as a child, while our fathers were in the middle of prayers, my friends and I would take aim trying to shoot down the fruits that were hung, decoratively in the Sukkah, at the Sephardic Synagogue in Forest Hills, Queens. They were real fruits and made a messy landing. A few years later the Board of Directors, to avoid the chaos, decided the real fruits would be replaced with fake ones. It wasn’t the same after that, since it wasn’t much fun to shoot the plastic ones down. The idea of fruits hanging from the shchach (ceiling of the Sukkah made of bamboos) was in keeping with the biblical theme of Sukkot as the harvest festival of the Jewish calendar year.
There are a number of definitions of the word Sukkah. One Hebrew word that Jewishtradition associates with the word sukkah – “socheh” – and its meaning is “to see” or “to perceive.” That association would seem to imply that a sukkah somehow provides some perspective. Which, in fact, it does. That perspective and strong emphasis of Sukkot is it should be a temporary dwelling. Many laws are sensitive to this issue. One of which is: a Sukkah can not exceed 20 ammot (25-30 Ft.), by exceeding the twenty ammot that would constitutes a permanent structure.
Why should a Sukkah be a temporary dwelling?

It’s a custom in many communities to read Kohelet which was written by King Solomon. The work consists of personal or autobiographic matter, with reflections on the purpose of life and the best method of conducting it. Far from being a depressing book, Kohelet is there to add to the simcha. It’s infused with a spirit of joy and optimism, and gives Sukkot a special flavor. But the question is why was Sukkot chosen for its recitation and not any other holiday? Pesach, we became a nation and Shevuot we received the Torah. Those holidays are joyous as well why isn’t Kohelet recited then?
Another question about the holiday of Sukkot which we are mystified by are the seven supernal guests who come to visit us in the sukkah, one for each of the seven days of the festival. Ushpizin is an Aramaic word that means “guests”. The seven “founding fathers” of the Jewish people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. While all seven ushpizin visit our sukkah on each of the seven nights and days of Sukkot, each supernal “guest” is specifically associated with one of the festival’s seven days, and is the “leading” or dominant ushpiza for that night and day.
After reading this next story many of the questions above will be answered and the message of Sukkot will be understood giving a new perspective of life.

When the Russian Army conquered Lithuania, they sent many of the prisoners of war to, where else, Siberia. As one has realized through the experience of current events and history, war is cruel. The Russians forced the most high in command in the Lithuania military to perform the lowest task in prison. The more prominent position, the more embarrassing the job would be. They would make high ranking Generals clean toilets. This is how they would destroy the moral of the enemy.
One Jew who happened to be in Siberia at the time, victim of other crimes against the Republic, noticed something strange one night in the barracks while everyone was asleep.
One of the high ranking Generals awoke in the middle of the night apparently thinking all were sleeping and not aware this Jew was awake, pulled out from a duffle bag his officers uniform and dressed himself.
He then went in front of the mirror and saluted. Then he motioned his hand to the left then to the right as if he was giving orders. After approximately fifteen minutes he undressed placing the uniform back in the duffle bag and went back to sleep.
The next day the Jew trying to find a few minutes alone with the ex-General to ask him what the incident meant, finally was able to talk to him while outside doing drills in the snow.
The General indicated “What I’m currently doing now is not my true essence, I am a soldier here. But I am a General, this is my true calling in life. This prison is not the true reality.”
The essence of our existence is not the material, it’s the spiritual world. It’s hard to make both a priority. Therefore, one has to chose. The Sukkah is designed to be temporary. The lifeblood is not found in the short term world, with all the luxuries that we are accustomed to. As the Mesilat Yesharim says, and I paraphrase” it’s impossible to believe, one can really enjoy this world with all it’s disappointments that usually get latched on to whatever we do and accomplish. There is always something that will prevent us from the optimal enjoyment. And even if everything is perfect, which is hard to believe, one does not have time to enjoy it because he’s here only temporary!”
Kohelet starts off “Vanity of vanities”, said Koheleth; “vanity of vanities, all is vanity-all is worthless!!!”. This is a message from an individual, the wise King Solomon who overindulged in many of the worlds, finest physical pleasures. We leave those physical pleasures behind, the confines of our homes, our palaces and live in the Sukkah-little huts for seven days. Sukkah is trying to teach us that’s the true essence! By leaving our home we symbolize: life is temporary!. It’s not the physical world that’s the reality “it’s the uniform, as the general wholeheartedly believes”, it’s what one accomplishes through the Torah, through the mitzvoth.

The Sukkah makes one retap into this reality. We have to recharge the true reality in these seven days. King Solomon teaches us: physical world is not worth anything and there is a true existence!!! For this reason, we read Kohelet on Sukkot it’s the second verse that provides us with the Sukkah message.
And what gives this temporary time in the Sukkah staying power? The Ushpizin, our Avot-forefathers! One connects to his heritage. It gives the temporary state permanence! Because the link to our fathers is eternal! The Zohar is hinting that the Ushpizin are guests, just like us and we have to seize the moment in our lives. The opportunity to re-connect to them and to G-d is momentary! Life is short!
The fruits that are hung up in the Sukkah represent the harvest season. Farmers are especially happy at this time. These farmers, who are owners, know that field cannot be sold permantly. Eventually they have to give it back to the ancestral families. G-d informs us “you are wonderers and guests. I own the land. You are my guests in the land. You are guests in this world…make the best of it”

The rare coin that changed the life of many.

excerpts from a story heard by Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum and Rabbi Yossi Bilus 

How nice and relieved it would probably feel when someone is to receive a large sum of money, sorely needed, from Hakadosh Baruch Hu, to pay some of the bills and then have a little extra for ones personal needs.
   Similar was the path, the structure of the Jewelry business of my lot when I was there. I would struggle for months and then, one day, there was that big sale where then it would put a smile on my face and relieve my anxieties for at least six months.
Such was the case with this struggling individual who was showered by the heavens with one rare coin. This bracha would sustain him and his family for a good couple of years. However, one has to be smart and wait for the right buyer. The person has to receive the maximum amount when an opportunity like such strikes.
It was unthinkable to trust in the banking system and safe deposit boxes were rare in those days. The home, man’s castle, is where he would keep his valuables. However, as  one is familiar there is a downside to keeping expensive assets at home.
The individual decided to keep the expensive coin in the master bedroom closet high up in one of the secret compartments out of the reach of his young  children. However, as we all know the painful lesson a child has a long reach. They go on these explorations and find things in your house that parents didn’t know existed.
One day the man’s five year old boy found the coin and decided to go to the neighborhood makolet (grocery store) and splurge on some of his favorite candy. His mother was curious how he got all those sweets but it wasn’t until his father came home and realized that the closet was tampered with, then he knew where the candy came from.
   The father marched with his five year old down to the makolet and demanded from the store owner that he return the coin. The store owner went into his register and took out the coin presumably that the boy gave. However, that was not the expensive rare coin!!!
The father explained that his son gave the store owner a rare coin and not what the makolet keeper gave back and he must give it back!! By now the argument was being heard from outside the busy street and people were gathering by the store. The store owner reiterated again the boy did not give him the coin. The father said “I want you to swear in front of Bet Din”(Jewish court system). “No problem” said the store owner.
 The owner indeed swore in front of Bet Din and the matter was supposedly resolved. The father struggled for the next few years financially but managed with the minimal amount. The store owner, even though was exonerated by Bet Din, lost a great amount of patronage for they always associated him with taking the coin. Not only did the owner have to close up shop due to the bad reputation of the coin incident, he also had difficulty marrying off his children. Eventually, he was forced to relocate his family to another city.
 Twenty five years later the father now old and debilitated received an envelope with no return address. In it was a rare coin similar to the one the father owned twenty five years ago. In the envelope along with the coin was a note of apology. The letter stated:
 “Twenty five years ago I bumped into your son on the way to the store. Your son was flashing this expensive rare coin and it fell to the ground. The temptation was to great;  I picked up the coin switching  it with a regular similar size coin. My family was in a desperate financial situation and we were down on our luck. I  moved to a different town, sold the coin and with the money eventually got on my feet. I owe you an apology for all the trouble I might have caused. Please, forgive me”.
The question Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum poses is how will the heavens judge the parties who were involved in this story. Obviously, the poor  store owner is the anointed victim. The father, considering the tremendous financial loss he was about to encounter and the disappointment of the potential gains, perhaps might have handled the situation a bit more low key. The person, who actually  switched/stole the coin would, most likely, be judged severely.
   However, there is another party who has  to be judged negatively and that is the patrons of the store and people of the town who had no connection to the case but got involved anyway. They spread negative assumptions about the store owner and for the most part caused him and his family unwarranted grief.
 The lesson to be learned as we enter the threshold of Yom Kippur and we ask forgiveness from our brethren, is not to judge our fellow when we have no authority to do so. We should not get involved in business that doesn’t pertain to us.
 Yom Kippur is a time to ask forgiveness from G-d as well as our fellow brethren. It’s a time that we have to look at our relationships in a very sensitive manner and hold back our unwarranted opinion.



The power of the voice of the Shofar

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Doppelt, Yossi Bilus

This year some of us will live, and some…; some will prosper financially, some will struggle; some will have health issues, some will not; some will get married and some will get divorced; some will have children, some will not; some will triumph, some will fail. It’s most difficult to make light and be humorous at this time of the year, considering the responsibility that the heavens weigh upon us. It’s a crucial time and, frankly, we can make a difference. How, one may ask? Regardless of what the outcome will be, we follow the guidance of our religious leaders, they lead us with special prayers and tools to accomplish the optimal results for a good sweet year. These methods have been closely taken from the Torah and from the elder generations which followed. We then incorporate the methods and are proactive during the prayer services whether through singing along, listening or praying silently with the utmost devotion and sincerity.
 One of the main tools and weapons is the shofar. The Sages (Vayikra Rabbah 29:3) teach us that the Shofar is able to accomplish an almost magical task of enticing G-d to stand up from the throne of Strict Justice and move to the throne of Mercy. How is this accomplished?
 Furthermore, the Sages, based on the words of the Prophets, describe the sound of the shofar as a call to repentance. If so, why is the shofar sounded at night at the close of Yom Kippur when there is as yet no need for a new call to repentance? Clearly, the sound of the shofar also signals an outburst of joyous confidence that our Yom Kippur prayers were accepted favorably. But this is in itself puzzling. How does one sound: serve both as a call to repentance and a cry of joy? What is the power of this phenomenon?

  There is yet another powerful method that we rely on, which, happens to be,  a main theme of Rosh Hashana, and that is  recitation of the “Akeidat Yitzchak”. It’s the story of G-d testing the faith of our patriarch – Avraham. He was commanded to sacrifice his dearest son -Yitzchak, which he dutifully attempted. Avraham’s attempt epitomized the highest level of faith by man. As a matter of fact, we sing a poem OKED V’HANEKAD regarding the emotional state of mind of the parents Avraham and Sarah as well as the son, Yitzchak, as he is awaiting to be slaughtered, before the blowing of the shofar. (Singing a poem regarding the subject like this is the best way to get us inspired to connect to G-d)
 Intriguing, though, if one would translate “Akeidat Yitzchak” “the binding of Yitzchak” it doesn’t seem to define the incredible test!!! G-d commanded to slaughter Yitzchak, not bind him. Of course, one has to bind the hands of his prey in order to receive the best result. However, it should have been titled the “slaughter” or “potential slaughter of Yitzchak”. Perhaps the emphasis should have been on the knife. But certainly, many would agree, the emphasis should not be on the binding. It’s anti-climatic!! Why then do we single out the binding?
  If there ever was a dramatic pause in Synagogue, it’s right before the shofar blowing. It’s one of the most crowded times of the year. Everyone is quiet as the congregation anticipates the blowing of the shofar. Interestingly, we read a psalm, “Lamenatzeach b’nai Korach” seven times right before the blowing of the shofar.  Why do we read about Korach’ sons before one of the most important times of the year?
The holy Torah has always taught us if one wants to understand something he has to go to the root. Well, the root of a mankind is Adam, the first man. We will have clarity about the Akeida and shofar after probing into the environment Adam was placed before and after the sin. The Ramban writes, and I paraphrase, “that Adam did according to his nature which was pure good. In essence there was no right and wrong. There was no confusion on what to do. Adam only seeked the truth, G-d. However, after Adam ate from the eitz hada’at – the tree of knowledge, the freedom of choice was placed upon him. Da’at in Hebrew can mean choice.”
Many commentaries find this Ramban a bit difficult. Wasn’t man designed to make decisions from the get go? Isn’t that the essence of man? In deed, the fact that he had an evil inclination on his back his whole life placed him higher than even the angels. After all, if he prevails, he prevails with the heavy load on his shoulder of tough choices to make. No pain – no gain; that’s a tremendous accomplishment. Angels don’t have that choice.
 There is an astonishing Gemara in Tractate Yuma(77) that mentions the angel Gavriel received lashes for disobeying a command from the heavens. How can that be, Angels can’t sin? How is that possible? They’re G-d’s obedient and trusted soldiers. Malach Gavriel rebelled?! WOW!!
 There is a misconception about these extra terrestrial creatures. Angels can’t sin not because they’re programed that way, it’s not the result of that they’re robots, it’s, for the reason that they are so close to G-d – it’s obvious. Similarly, if one asks another to jump into the fire, his reaction will be “I can’t”. He actually can, however, he is smart enough to know the consequences and therefore will not do it.
 Another example, if one will ask another to walk stark naked on Queens Boulevard during morning rush hour.  It’s not that he can’t; he won’t.
 The same is with the angels they’re so close to G-d that they form a binding with G-d. It’s a no-brainer!!  They know better not to sin. That was man’s holy state before the sin. Adam was meant to bind to G-d from the get go.
 Avraham and Yitzchak reached a very high level of belief in G-d to an extent  that it was truly AKEIDAT YITZCHAK, a bind similar to Angelic state.
 As we all know, life is difficult. Living in the high powered New York is truly very demanding. There is so much pressure on us through our daily schedule, it’s hard to think of spiritual matters. Plus, there is our negative side that for whatever reason doesn’t let us accomplish or reach that bind with G-d. So was the case with Korach’s sons. Korach was an evil man who pursued honor at the expense what was the right path. He rebelled and at the end paid the consequences. It was most difficult on his sons who were pressured to follow their father’s ways. Actually, it was both their parents who were instrumental in the evil rebellion. The negative energy was pulling and squeezing  them towards the wrong decision. Going against the grain is tough. However, at the last moments with their backs against the wall, at the buzzer,  before G-d killed the rebels, they stood up and said “No!!! We have to pursue the truth. We cannot let the pressures and pleasures of the negative energy overcome us. We have to change and improve our lives”
 The time before mussaf, when the chazzan  is moments from blowing the shofar, is an opportunity to change the decree. It’s the time to capitalize on the moment because our backs are against the wall similar to Korach’s sons. As we read the Mizmor, we should realize how they persevered and changed their lot at the last moment and therefore binding themselves to G-d similarly to Avraham and Yitzchak.


The power of the shofar!

 The life force within man came when G-d “blew into his nostrils the soul of life and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). This is why the nose, used for breathing and smell, is the organ through which the neshama, soul enters and leaves” (See Rabbeinu Bachya, ibid).  Of the three parts of the soul, the highest, unsullied component is the neshama (as in the Eloykei Neshama prayer: “My G-d, the neshama that You implanted in me is pure”. This soul can never be contaminated. Why not? This is because it has no association to sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Chava defiled four out of their five senses. They heard the serpent’s alluring words, the fruit was “a delight to the eyes”, they touched it by taking from it’s fruit and they tasted it. But the sense of “smell” remained untarnished. Accordingly, this sense denotes inner purity and deep attachment to G-d and the fulfilment of His Will. From this we see the power of the ketoret-the incense that was burned for a sacrifice in the holy Temple. Aharon the priest was able to stop a plague and prevent the nation from dying by performing the incence sacrifice. The reason for its potency is the fact its pure essence of smell – breathing. Today, we don’t realize, the importance of reading of the korbanot before mincha and shacharit.
Furthermore, the  breath of life, free of the artificial manipulations of speech, as well as it not corrupted by evil gossip throughout the year, is the most expressive form of communication. A gasp, a sigh, a scream are more eloquent than pages of prose, because they don’t tell about what is inside us, they actually are what is inside us. Therefore, the voice itself, the exhalation of the breath, is more expressive than the spoken words it transports. When Hashem wanted Abraham to heed the advice of his wife Sarah, He told him to “listen to her voice.” The voice is the key, not the words.The shofar is a tool that is untainted, its prayers comes from the innermost soul, through the breath, the nostrils and therefore has a tremendous impact. It has the power, with its purity, to bind the individual to his maker. It has the power to breakthrough barriers. We say in our prayers that G-d hears the sound of the shofar. This is the KEY to our high holidays prayers. The power of the shofar has the ability to change negative decree to positive and allow us to have a happy sweet new year and be written in the book of life. Amein!


Life is fragile, handle with care!

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yissachar Frand, Akiva Grunblat, Baruch Dopelt Dr Abba Goldman
There are pluses and minuses to being multicultural. The minus is one never  really has the feeling of any one culture being “home”.  We understand the joke, but don’t appreciate the humor as much as they do.  However, the plus is one gets a taste of an enormous amount of knowledge having being exposed to the diversity of the world and knowledge is a power.
    I recently was in a major car accident and  a famous wise expression kept haunting me throughout the ordeal.
The   Bukharian Jews frequently use an expression in a regretful connotation when reflecting on one who passed on; it’s two words “haifi odam”; its either said, just is or “haif” with a person who is no longer in this world attached to it.  An example,”Haifi Joe” would be the correct way it’s used.
It’s a loaded two words, deep in meaning and probably needs a couple of paragraphs to explain. Nevertheless an attempt will done as condensed and as clear as possible:
   What a pity on an individual life; what a pity on the essence of a person. How short life is and we are robbed of enjoying the particular individual. He/she left before we could enjoy them more. How vulnerable a human is; here today and gone tomorrow.  Only he was able to do it a certain way and he is not replaceable.  Life is too short!
   The “HAIFI ODAM” expression came into full bloom on two experiences in my life. When my father past away, my father-in-law, who was very close to his mother, appeased me by saying “Haifi onim” sadly. “The human being doesn’t have the worth as we seemingly think. They’re gone before we appreciate them”. The second experience of “haifi odam” is my recent accident experience.
   A few Saturday nights ago I made Havdalah (prayer that separates the Shabbat from weekdays) where then I was on my way, as I usually do every motzai Shabbat, to visit my elderly mother. I had some laughs with my kids and off I went.  Seven minutes later I awaken after loosing consciousness,  on the street next to my car, where I just had an accident, awaiting an ambulance. Funny, how one moment my family and I are enjoying each others company and moments later it can be an unfamiliar script. I remember thinking as I was regaining consciousness, looking up and seeing the accident scene, saying  “Oh, no, this bad dream is continuing. I did not make it to my mother.” There is a certain reassurance of the concept of habit and the accident had diverted my life from my usual routine.


   We can learn a valuable lesson from this week’s parsha to what we discussed above.
   This parsha contains the mitzvah of Bikkurim (offering one’s first fruits in Jerusalem) and the mitzvah of reading the associated Parshas Bikkurim (First-Fruit Reading). In Parshat Bikkurim, a person offers praise to the Almighty, expressing gratitude for the many kindnesses He has bestowed upon the Jewish people in general and on this farmer in particular. In expressing this gratitude, the person testifies that he not only appreciates what he has received now, but he appreciates the whole process by which he has arrived to that point in time. In Parshas Bikkurim, we trace the whole history of the Jewish people from the earliest Patriarchic era to our present day. In detailing the suffering we experienced in Egypt, the narrative includes the following declaration: “The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.” [Devarim 26:6].

Rabbi Yissachar Frand mentions that the commentary the Alshich is bothered by a statement of the Sages. One of the three fundamental commandments in our holy Torah is the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. He remarks that Bikkurim would not seem to be in anyone’s list of the “top 3 mitzvot” and yet here this Midrash states that the world was created for the sake of this mitzvah! What is the meaning of this Midrash?

    Secondly, once again the topic of Yetziat Mitzraim – the exodus of Egypt is brought up. It seams like on almost every corner of Jewish holy scripture the Torah mentions the Exodus from Egypt. Even the first of the Ten Commandments where it says “I am Your G-d” it continues “Who took you out from Egypt”. Why does that incident stand out in all that is associated with belief in G-d?  Secondly, it seems there is an association to the mitzvah of bikkurim. What is it?
Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt quotes the Rambam’s question of how in the good old days did pangenetic worship start. Idle worship was very popular in biblical times. He answers: it actually started very innocently. They actually believed in G-d, however, they wanted to honor the second in command. What first was a tribute to, for example, the stars, later evolved into being the main focus of worship. They were under the impression that they weren’t worthy of going direct to G-d, so they settled. Who am I to bother the King. It’s a lack of respect to bypass the officers. This is how the second fiddle, the go between, transformed to the primary.
     The essential directive of Yetziat Mitzraim – exodus from Egypt was as G-d explicitly decrees “I will take you out” – not an angel! This is a clear message against paganism. It’s a direct attack toward the trend of the world. There is a direct relationship between G-d and an individual Jew. It’s personal, it’s a relationship.
We are about to enter the Judgment month and as one is aware: Rosh Hashana we emphasize and refer to G-d as King. However, we also express that he is Our Father – AVINU MALKEINU! This is the personal relationship we have with HIM and it’s a very special one!
     Rabbi Grunblat gives a parable. Jews have the kind characteristic of helping each other. One wealthy man committed himself to help a particular down and out individual.  They agreed every Monday, at 8:00am, the needy man will come and the wealthy man will give him a check for $2,000; this will be sufficient to sustain him for the week. After the initial Monday when he received the first installment the down and out man showed up, on Tuesday knocking at the door. “I just want to remind you  to fulfill your promise next Monday”. The rich man said “no problem, it’s ok, I remember our agreement”. The next day the poor man came again knocking on the door and reminding the rich man again.              The wealthy man surprised at the man’s appearance again, reiterated, “don’t worry, you’ll have it Monday. There is no need to remind me again”. Sure enough, though, the poor man came again the next day.
    We pray three times a day and for the most part have the same request. Why do we repeat the same thing?  If we pray once a week, I’m sure, G-d’s not going to forget. In fact, G-d should probably be annoyed at the constant repetitiveness, don’t you think?
   No, absolutely not!!! It’s personal; G-d wants the communication to constantly be there. It’s an intimacy we share with Our Maker. The personal relationship is important!  There is more opportunity for appreciation!
Let’s get back to the mitzvah of Bikkurim.
The Alshich answers that the mitzvah of Bikkurim contains within it something that is fundamental to being a human being — the obligation for people to express their gratitude and hakarat haTov- acknowledgement of gratitude. HaKarat haTov is so basic and primary that the whole world’s creation was actualized just for this mitzvah, which teaches us and trains us in the attribute of gratitude.
The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer [Chapter 7] writes, “There is nothing harder for the Almighty to live with (as it were) than an ungrateful person. The reason Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden was due to his ingratitude. His sin was not merely eating from the Tree of Knowledge (Etz HaDaas). For that sin alone, perhaps he could have remained in Gan Eden. The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was the fact that in response to G-d’s question ‘why he ate from the Etz HaDaat’, Adam said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it.” As Rashi points out, Adam was being ungrateful. G-d presented him Chava as a gift and Adam complained that she caused him to sin.
Appreciation of G-d and the people around us who are created in G-d’s image is essential part of life.  However, we take those relationships for granted. Though, at times it’s not done intentionally. We tend to get busy with our own lives and focus on specific things therefore neglecting loved ones and old friends. Only after the individual passes on, do we regret not spending more time or being nicer to them.
There was a mutual friend from the neighborhood, Forest Hills, David Kagan, who had abruptly passed away a number of years ago at age 45.  His death shocked us all. A few weeks later I received a call from our mutual friend, Ronny Alibayof, who expressed interest in having a mini reunion. He told me “Kagan and I wanted to get

together for a long time  but never had the chance. I don’t want that to h

appen to us. Let’s enjoy each other’s company while we can, considering the uncertainty of tomorrow.”

We have to cherish our relationships and value them whether it be between us and G-d or with our loved ones. One never knows, one can be laughing and enjoying loved ones and seven minutes later things can change.

What does dignity have to do with me being a good tipper?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Yochanan Zweig, Yossi Bilus, Chaim Shmuelevitz z’l, Yitzchak Aminov, Dr. Aba Goldman
Rabbi Yitzhak Aminov is, currently, a prominent Rabbi in a Jewish community in Israel. In the late 1960’s he began to travel to New York to fundraise for his Yeshiva. Considering the time constraints, fundraising requires one to frequently leapfrog from one appointment to another. Occasionally, one gets lucky and receives a ride from the donors themselves, yet at times one would need to travel by taxi to their next appointment.
 Rabbi Aminov,  a reserved and well mannered man was puzzled when he was frequently received with anger at the end of the rides by the cab driver. ” I don’t understand it; I would pay the required amount; I would always remain quiet and not ask the driver any questions of why he took this route as opposed to another. Perhaps I didn’t take the money fast enough out of my wallet? Can it be that  New Yorkers flare up quicker then others over trivial things?
One day, it all made sense to me, I was sitting at the counter space at Diamond Dairy, a restaurant in the  diamond district, when I noticed a friend, who was sitting by my side,  leaving some money on the table where then the waitress quickly shuffled it in her patch by her waist side. I asked him why  are you paying the  waitress as well as the cashier? He answered back “that’s a tip”.
 Now I realized why the taxi drivers were so upset, I left them with no tip”
When wealthy Americans brought home the practice of tipping from their European vacations in the late 19th century, their countrymen considered it bribery. State legislatures quickly banned the practice. But restaurateurs, giddy at the prospect ofpassing labor costs directly to customers, eventually convinced Americans to accept tipping. However, the concept of tipping was not accustomed in the Israeli society, apparently, till much later.
  It’s funny but some societies tip before they get their food or for that matter before their even seated. Unfortunately, that is the only way they would receive any   service. However that practice is more considered a bribe then a tip.
“…you shall not send him empty-handed; you shall adorn him with gifts…”(15:13,14)After six years of slavery, the Torah requires that the Jewish slave be set free. Additionally, he should not go out empty-handed. Rather, his master should furnish him with gifts ofsignificant value. What is the rationale behind obligating a person to give a gift? Clearly, this is not his compensation, for the Torah requires that the slave be paid in full up front.

Why is it the accepted practice to tip for certain services, while for others it is not? For example, if a person checks in his luggage curbside, he leaves a tip with the porter. However, if he checks his luggage in at the counter, he does not tip the attendant. Similarly, one tips a barber, but not a cashier. The reason is as follows: When someone does a personal service for us, to a certain extent, he has been demeaned. It is for personal service, therefore, that we tip. The tip is the means by which we restore dignity to the person serving us; it shows our appreciation for what he has done for us.  After all, the porter humiliated himself by picking up our heavy suitcases and shlepping them all over the place. The waiter removed our dirty plates after we ate so nicely.
Why is dignity so important?

 We learn how important dignity is from G-d’s  sensitivity to one of the most wicked individuals that ever lived, Bilam.
Balak, the king of Moav, sends a delegation to persuade Bilam to go and curse the Jews. Excited at the opportunity, Bilam, however, consults with G-d, Who tells him not to go. Bilam, though, makes it seem to the delegation that he wasn’t going because it’s beneath his dignity to go with such representation. He wants a  more important and prominent delegation to pry him out of his comfortable settings. Bilam didn’t let anyone know that G-d disapproves of cursing the Jews. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz says: “A carefull reading of the verse shows G-d gave two reasons disassociating himself with Balak’s emissaries .The first, astonishingly, was indeed to protect Bilam’s dignity, while only the second was… not to curse the Jews.
But who is Bilam that G-d has to protect his dignity ? Why protect the dignity of a low-life ? Reb Chaim points out that even the most low and despicable individual is not to be humiliated more than is absolutely nessesary. The stature and importance of Man -created in G-d’s image-is so great that sensitivity has to be applied even to the wicked Bilam . G-d set aside his own honor in order to preserve the dignity of Bilam. The Sages say that Bilam’s donkey was killed so that people shouldn’t say this is the animal that humiliated Bilam. “I CAN’T MOVE BECAUSE THE ANGEL IS IN FRONT OF ME, HELLO !!! EVEN THIS ANIMAL CAN SEE, GET WITH THE PROGRAM, BOSS” the donkey opened his mouth and spoke out to Bilam. What a miracle…A talking donkey!!! Doesn’t it remind you of the talking horse, Mr. Ed? WILBUR !! Hey, talking animals are hard to find. Even if the animal would have remained alive it would have brought a tremendous  sanctification of G-d’s name. People would have pointed to the donkey and proclaimed “G-d wonders and justice”. It would have been living testimony of G-d’s creation and control of the world. However the dignity of man would have suffered severely and therefore the animal had to be put to death. The same principle applies for any person killed for having relations with animals. The Torah says the animal should be put to death as well. What did the poor animal do besides being an uncooperative participant?  People would point out ” this animal and so and so…..”
We had discussed many times the importanceof offering guests chibud kal-light refreshment.  There is a fascinating Rashi in parshat “Va’Yechi” which discusses the importance of greeting a guest with a smile. Seeing the white teeth from a smile is better than offering a tall glass of milk, which is also white. The tip will not be appreciated if it’s given grudgingly and with a frown. Here we see even if no money and refreshment were  presented, just a smile… the soul of the guest is satisfied and dignity is restored..
 I recently asked a neighbor how his son, who became a junior counselor for the first time this past summer faired with tips. Counselors similar to waiters, for the most part, only get compensated for their work through tips. The father took the concept of dignity even to a higher sensitive level. He said, with a disappointed voice, “my son received the full amount of money that was projected, however, no note was put into the envelope stating thank you. It seemed like they just put the money in the envelope because they were obligated”.
  Dr. Goldman brings up a very crucial observation. The most abused people, in terms of dignity, are children. Parents often humiliate kids in front of other parents or their children’s friends.  One should know the humiliation has an everlasting affect on the child. If a parent thinks that a child is just a child and doesn’t have the capability to get truly offended…think again! A parent cannot even receive forgiveness from the child for reason that he is not of age, doesn’t have the power, according to Jewish law to forgive.  The good Doctor gives a common example. After services in Beit Haknesset (shul) on Shabbat, we often speak to our friends, sometimes at length, where our child is pulling us out ofboredom. We, then react in a negative way towards the child. If we were with an adult guest, instead of the child, would we still have a lengthy conversation with our friend?  Here too… the child’s dignity has been marked.
 We even offer dignity to the sotah, the unfaithful wife, who would deserve death, had there been witnesses to her sin. Yet, when there are no witnesses, every attempt is made to have her confess and be saved. She is harassed continuously and moved from place to place in the Temple courtyard, all for the purpose of causing her to confess and be saved from a horrible death.
 One of the major aspects of interpersonal communication according to the Torah is to make people feel good. Whether it be by tipping or just a smile and a good morning, the action restores dignity which is sorely needed by each individual.
 The Torah requires that we give parting gifts to the Jewish slave, since, for six years he has been at our beck and call, giving us the highest level of personal service that one Jew can give another. We are obligated, therefore, to restore his dignity… We hope that dignity is restored within him and the family structure will return when he’s back to the level ofequality status.