Archive for Trust

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Chukat


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

Are you ready for this week’s commentary on the Parsha? How many questions can you answer on your own?

This week’s parsha, Parshas Chukat, speaks about a Parah Adumah, a red cow. A red cow was used to be Metaher, to purify those that became Tamei, impure. It had to be a red cow that did not have more than two white or black hairs. The Rambam states that there were only nine red cows and the tenth will be when Mashiach comes. It will be used to purify all Jews. The first red cow existed in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. In the generations following, when the red cow was used, it was mixed with ashes from the first Parah Adumah.

There is an interesting phenomenon with the red cow. It purifies the impure and simultaneously makes (those that prepare it) those that were pure, become impure.
How is it that the same thing can purify and impurify at the same time?

The Parah Adumah shows us that nothing in this world happens without the command of Hashem. Hashem decides who the Parah Adumah is to purify and who to impurify. To us it does not make sense. Without the command of Hashem nothing can have the outcome that follows. What seems like nature cannot occur without Hashem willing it to.

There is a story related in the Gemara – Talmud. There was a poisonous snake that would roam the town and many times kill people with his venom. All were too frightened to try and kill the snake. Reb Chanina ben Dosa, a holy rabbi, said he’ll get rid of this snake. He went to the hole in which the snake resided and put his foot over the hole. Of course the snake bit Reb Chanina’s foot. But a miracle happened. Reb Chanina did not die. Instead the snake died. Reb Chanina pulled the snake out of its’ hole and walked to the Bet Medrash pronouncing its’ death. All were shocked. Reb Chanina announced, “It is
not the snake that kills but Hashem that has commanded that he kill. Those who died have died because of their sins. I was not worthy of death and therefore Hashem has reversed the outcome and the snake died.”

We can look around us and see many instances where we seem confused. Times when we believe that a situation seems unfair. Times when a Rasha, an evil person, seems to be successful and has everything and a righteous person seems to have nothing. And yet, we do not see the full picture. We must believe that everything that happens makes sense and is for the good. It’s all part of the master plan. Just like we do not understand how the red cow can purify those that are impure and impurify those that are pure. We must follow all that Hashem demands of us even if we do not understand why.

There is a parable that clearly brings about this point: A man went to see a home that he was interested in purchasing. He entered the house and started to walk around. He kept bumping into things. “What a house! Everything is in the wrong place. All the appliances are placed in the way.” Suddenly the lights were turned on and he saw that everything was in the right place. It was he who was foolish.

So too, we do not see the whole picture. We assume that things are done wrong. When Mashiach comes the light will turn on and we will then understand all that transpired.
The holy Baal Shem Tov was walking with his disciples. “Why did this leaf fall off the tree? The holy Baal Shem Tov has told us that nothing happens for naught.” The Baal Shem Tov told his disciple, “Go lift up the leaf and see.” He lifted the leaf and saw a small worm resting under the leaf. “The worm prayed to Hashem to shade him from the sun. Hashem commanded the wind to blow. He commanded the branch to shake. He commanded that the leaf detach from the tree and fall precisely on this little worm. So you see all Hashem does has reason, many we don’t clearly see.”

There is an amazing story told. An ill man went to visit his doctor. He was diagnosed with a heart condition and the doctor warned him not to eat cheese and drink wine. fterwards he headed to the Rav of Sanz, the Divrei Chaim for a blessing. He described his condition to the Divrei Chaim and was told to eat cheese and drink wine. Although the doctor had warned him that it would be detrimental for his health, he followed the advice of the great Rabbi, the Divrei Chaim. Sure enough, he had a complete recovery. It is not the doctors who heal, nor the abstinence of cheese or wine but Hashem who has the
power to heal. There was another person diagnosed with the same condition. He did not go to the Divrei Chaim he just decided to eat cheese and drink wine against the doctor’s orders, since he heard about the recovery of the fellow who went for a blessing. His condition worsened. The blessing was not meant for him. He may have received different advice.

In this week’s parsha, it also relates that Jews were being bitten by a snake. They would die becausebthey complained about the manna. Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to create a snake out of copper. He hung it on a stick and those that looked at the snake were healed. Of course it was not the power of the snake but the power of Hashem that healed those that looked at the snake. This snake was used for many generations following. King Chizkiyahu destroyed this copper snake when people were convinced
that it was the power of the snake that heals. They did not put their trust in Hashem.

What have we learned today?

What was a Parah Adumah? What was the purpose of the Parah Adumah?
It was a complete red cow. It did not have more than two white or black hairs. It would make those that were impure, pure.

What can we learn from the Parah Adumah?
Just like we do not understand the reason for the Parah Adumah, so too, we do not need to know the reason for doing the things that Hashem has commanded of us. We must trust that all that Hashem does is right. We must believe that if we are commanded to do something or to refrain from doing something, there is good reason for it.

What are some examples of situation that show divine providence (that all that happens is with purpose)? A leaf does not fall without purpose. People have missed their flight only to discover that the plane crashed. Many were saved on 9/11 because they were delayed on their way to work. Think of personal examples that happened to you or people that you know. You’d be surprised how many you can think of.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Shelach

 by Rabbi Gedalia Fogel – Pre 1A – Yeshiva Ketana of Queens


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shelach, Moshe Rabbeinu sent 12 spies to check out the land of Eretz Yisrael. They saw giants and came back to the Jewish nation with the following report. “We were like grasshoppers and they saw us like that too.” The Medrash asks, “How did they know what the giants thought of them? Maybe Hashem made them see the spies as angels? Moshe Rabbeinu had told the spies to be strong and not to be scared. There sin was that they did not trust in Hashem. They were only worried about what others thought of them.

Many of us, at times, are worried about what others think of us; sometimes to the extent that we refrain from doing the right thing. We must always remember that when we do the right thing Hashem is on our side.

One should not do things only to impress others. We learn this from Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov told his sons to go down to Mitzrayim and purchase wheat. But they still had wheat. Why did they have to go to buy more? There was a hunger and Yaakov did not want to show off what he had while others did not. Yaakov did not want the Goyim to be jealous of his food supply, so he did not show that he had any.

Another place that we learn this is in Parshat Devarim. It says that Hashem told the Jews to go “Tzafon” literally meaning “North”. But the Kli Yakar says in his commentary that the word “Tzafon” can also mean “Hidden”. One must hide their wealth. They should not flaunt their riches. A Jew must always be aware not to incite the Goyim. Eisav is still upset with Yaakov that he took away his blessing from Yitzchak their father. Eisav’s descendants get angered and jealous when they see the Jews flaunt their wealth.

The Gerrer Rebbe was walking by a beautiful, palatial house under construction. They were building new front steps. The Rebbe started giving the owner instructions on how the bricks should go, what color they should be, how wide, etc. To which the man answered, “These are my steps. I will do it the way I want.” The Rebbe responded jokingly, “You are making fancy steps for those that pass your house. So in essence you are building them to impress me. Therefore I would like to tell you just how I like it so that I will enjoy it each time I pass.”  The Rebbe was trying to teach a lesson. One should not do things just to impress others.

Yeravam Ben Nevat did Avodat Zorah, worshiped idols and he incited others to do Avodat Zorah. It is a grave sin to worship idols, but is much worse to encourage others to sin too. Hashem told Yeravam, “Do Teshuva and your terrible sin will be erased. Then you will merit walking with Me and David Hamelech in Gan Eden.” Yeravam then asked, “Who will walk first David Hamelech or me?” To which Hashem responded “David Hamelech”. Yeravam’s pride did not allow him to do Teshuva, for he knew that in the end David Hamelech would still walk ahead of him.

There are amazing stories about those that went out of their way to stay low key and not to show off to others.

Some have a custom to say a D’var Torah when they are the Baal Simcha. This particular week, both Raphael and Pinchas were making a wedding. It was Shabbat and they gave a Kiddush in Shul. Raphael stood up and said a nice D’var Torah. Pinchas did not say anything, although he had prepared a speech. Only at the meal did Pinchas say the speech he had prepared. His family asked him, “Why didn’t you say your D’var Torah at the Kiddush as is your custom? You prepared an outstanding commentary.” Pinchas answered, “Raphael spoke before me. His D’var Torah was nice. But I was afraid that my D’var Torah was better than his and if I speak after him, no one would be appreciate his D’var Torah.

Shlomo was an extremely wealthy man. He was marrying off his daughter. All anticipated a glamorous wedding. But Shlomo took a smaller hall. It was a beautiful wedding but not the biggest talk of the town. Shlomo did not want to show off his wealth, so he took the money that he saved by lowering the cost of his daughter’s wedding and quietly, without fanfare, paid for a wedding of an orphan that got married that same night.


Everyone gathered into the synagogue to hear the speeches of two Torah scholars. The first, Reb Yankel got up to speak. He took out his notes and delivered a beautiful, insightful speech. Then the second, Reb Naftali stepped up to the podium. He too took out a paper and delivered a remarkable speech. Mordechai had heard Reb Naftali speak many times before and he never had any papers in front of him. When Reb Naftali went to rest, Mordechai checked Reb Naftali’s jacket pocket. Sure enough the paper he took out was empty. Reb Naftali did not want others to comment on the fact that he could say a speech by heart, while Reb Yankel needed to look into his notes.

One should make an effort to do what’s right and not to care about what others think. We must not look to impress those around us.

What have we learned today?


What was the sin of the spies?

They did not trust in Hashem. They were worried and scared about what the giants thought of them.


What lesson can we learn? 

One should make sure to do what’s right and trust that Hashem will be on his side. One need not go out of his way to impress others. One should not flaunt his wealth and his capabilities.


Parshat Shelach

First Portion

* Got to have faith!! That is the underlying message of the episode of the spies which we read about this week. Our ancestors were on the verge of entering the land of Israel. G-d had wanted the event of entering into Israel to be as open of a miracle as the splitting of the sea and receiving the Torah, and with the blind faith of the famous words the Israelites uttered Na’aseh ve nishma – we will do as You wish without asking. However, the Jews screamed “Wait!! Let us send spies to investigate the land. They will advise us which cities can be conquered easily so we should know who to attack first. The spies will also ascertain the native language, for then we can be trained to uncover their strategies easily.” They were preparing for war where it was unnecessary. “Just have faith in Me and everything will be okay”.

 In today’s times, we are required to do effort and not rely on miracles. But G-d specifically said there is no need for any effort; in this incident, just rely on G-d. However, the Israelites wanted confirmation by eyewitness reports that the promised land was, in fact, good. G-d replied “Have I not already said the land is good?” G-d’s words are true and require no tests. This is a fundamental essential of Judaism ‘faith’. Similarly, we have to refrain from conducting business on Shabbat, even though, in some vocations, it’s considered a very active day. This was especially a big test many years ago in the United States, where on Sunday, virtually everything was closed. So the pressure on Shabbat – Saturday – was very tempting. It was the busiest day of the week. Who would have thought that today, banks and liquor stores would be open on Sunday. This relieves the pressure on our beloved Shabbat. So G-d reluctantly permitted Moshe to select and send out spies even though disaster was imminent. G-d sets the table for us to make the right decision but it’s our choice, and whatever we decide, He helps us reach those goals. By doing so, he strengthens the freedom of choice process.
* Moshe selects a representative from each tribe to enter the land for the spy mission.

Second Portion
* The spies returned from spying the land at the end of 40 days. All but two spies, Kalev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, gave the land a thumbs up.
* Many reasons have been given as to why the majority of the spies gave a bad report. A few are: They each had high positions in the desert and were afraid they would lose it once the nation arrives in the new land. Another reason – human nature is such where it’s hard to adjust to change. It seems they were content in the desert.
* The people panicked and cried out to Moshe “Why did you take us out of Egypt – to die in this land?”

Third Portion
* G-d threatens to annihilate the Jewish people; however, Moshe intercedes on their behalf and saves the day. Well, almost. G-d punishes measure for measure. The generation of the wilderness, who reluctantly rejected to proceed to the promised land, will die in the desert. The Israelites will remain there for 40 years until all will be deceased. Only their children will have the opportunity to enter Israel.
* Moshe achieved partial forgiveness for the Jewish people by appealing to the Divine Attribute of Mercy. G-d had promised that He would always respond favorably to these. There are Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, but Moshe appealed only to six at that time. He felt that the Jews had not done repentance for their rebellion against G-d. He therefore asked for postponement of punishment to prevent immediate and complete destruction.

Fourth Portion
* The punishment was postponed. Unfortunately, however, the inception of  ‘that day’, referring to the ninth of Av, where our nation has had one bad omen after another, began, as a result of the spy incident. Every Tisha B’av, for as long as the Israelites were in the desert, they would be instructed to place themselves in their own graves which was dug out before. The next day, when the smoke cleared, they would tally up who survived and who perished.

Fifth Portion
* It was inevitable that the morale would be down among our nation. So G-d decreed and instructed a new meal offering that will only be observed when entering the promised land .This showed a vote of confidence to the future and young generation that G-d intends to fulfill His promise in which His children, the chosen people, will inherit the land.

Sixth Portion
* While in the wilderness, the Israelites did not set aside a portion from their dough. They became obligated only after entering the land of Israel. From then on, whenever someone made a quantity of dough from one of the five types of grain (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye) he was required to separate a part of the dough termed challah. This portion was given to the Kohen. Our sages ordained that challah be separated today as well. Today, our challah has to be burned. Again, we fulfill the obligation, whether it be in Israel or abroad, by separating and burning that very small piece of the dough. We then recite the blessing Baruch ata…..asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu lehafrish challa min haissa — separate challah from the dough. If one forgets to take challah from the raw dough, he must still take it from the bread. Although anyone in the household may separate challah, this mitzvah was specifically commanded to the wife. She thereby amends the sin of the first woman, Chava. Adam was created completely pure without evil desires. Chava caused him to lose his purity. After he sinned,  he and his descendants were drawn to physical desires. The mitzvah to separate challah has the potential to bring back the purity of spirit that was lost through Adam’s sin. Hence, by fulfilling the mitzvah, a woman rectifies Chava’s sin. One should be careful to fulfill this Mitzvah of separating challah. Famine is brought upon the world as a result of neglecting it while its observance brings bracha to the household.

Seventh Portion
* The Shabbat is one of the fundamental essentials of Judaism; this is the reason its juxtaposes next to the section of idolatry; both are equally important in Jewish faith. The Torah records an incident of a violator and the consequences.
* G-d presented us with one commandment that has the purpose of reminding us of all His other commandments. This is the commandment of Tzitzit. Tzitzit means fringes. They refer to threads attached to a four-cornered garment. The aim is for a Jew to look at them and remember G-d. It is attached to four corners which is aimed in four different directions to remind us that we are obligated to act in a Jewish manner, wherever we turn.

Effort and Trust

This following is a philosophical discussion on various topics. By no means should a halachic decision be made as a result of these articles. One should contact both a Rabbi who is an expert in such matters as well as a physician who specializes in these fields.
excerpts taken from the New York Times editorial
My Medical Choice
MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.


We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.


My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.


Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.

Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.


But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.


I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.

It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.


For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.

I acknowledge that there are many wonderful holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery. My own regimen will be posted in due course on the Web site of the Pink Lotus Breast Center. I hope that this will be helpful to other women.


Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.


I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.


Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.


Angelina Jolie is an actress and director.


In this week’s parsha we find the Israelite nation requesting Moshe, their leader, for permission to scout out the land before entering. Moshe reluctantly acquiesced to the request  Upon returning from their secret mission, they reported, as per Moshe’s instructions, 1)  the status of the land whether it’s fertile or not etc. and 2) the military strength of the inhabitants. Additionally, however, the spies presented  their unauthorized opinion to the nation. Their opinion caused a panic among the nation which therein angered G-d. The ten spies were found guilty of giving a negative report and were killed by G-d as punishment.


 One of the opinions as to what motivated the spies to speak badly about the land was that they thought their good merits which shined in the desert would not be enough to protect them once they were residing in the land. They thought that protection will only be provided if they live up to the standards of what they achieved in the desert. “That’s not possible” they reasoned, “and we will be destroyed by our enemies”.
They projected that they did not stand a chance against the powerful giants who were inhabiting the land. The spies minimized the promise G-d gave proclaiming that they will live in the land unscathed, and therefor made an effort to sabotage the idea of the Jewish people residing there. Instead of trusting G-d and going into the land with raised heads, they took matters into their own hands.


In both the case of the actress and the spies, a test has been presented.
The spies had to trust G-d and they failed. A guarantee was made. One can be certain that the evil inclination (Yetzer Hara)  placed strong doubts in their minds of not being able to overcome the giants due to lack of confidence in their people. However, they should have overcome the obstacle; they miscalculated.


Did the actress have to trust G-d that nothing will happen to her? No
We find no prophet approaching her and reassuring her that she will be disease free. Some would argue that’s it’s actually very commendable on her part and she did her required effort. Furthermore, the Jews experienced a supernatural existence with miracles galore, where the actress did not. Also, she did her proper “hishtadlut” effort  by going to the right doctors. She should therefor be rest assured that all will be alright because the Doctor is a messenger of G-d.
There’s an old story where G-d tells a man he’ll live till 120. Once while on a boat, it capsized and he’s drowning. However, he continues to have faith and says  “G-d will save me”. Well, a minute later a boat comes and they call out “grab the life boat”. He screams out “no, no, G-d will come and save me”. A while later a helicopter comes and throws down a latter. But the man ignores it and says “G-d will come and save me”. The man eventually drowns. He goes up to heaven and asks G-d “I thought I will live till 120, why didn’t you come and rescue me?” To which G-d replied, “I did I send you a boat and a helicopter!”
 Angelina Jolie has done her part in ensuring her survival.
On the other hand, one can argue that genetic disposition is merely a statistical probability, and though it might be a strong  indication, it still is only a probability.
They are many cases where Doctors were wrong in assessing pregnancies. Someone I know mentioned that he personally knows of a pregnancy of 4 months in which the Doctor advised the couple to abort the child, since there were indicators that the unborn child has down syndrome. The couple did not abort, citing the Torah ruling which considers this an act of murder. The child turned out to be healthy and normal.
 Furthermore, Jolie can receive early screening which is extremely helpful and lifesaving. One can argue that she didn’t have to go through that procedure.
 However, barring the surgery, she would have to live with the fear every day that the disease might resurface.  Perhaps it was undetected in the mammogram. Life can be nerve racking.
Has Angelina Jolie done too much HISHTODLUT- effort?
Did she over do it?
Or, perhaps she made the right decision.
 One can argue both positions.
Regardless, perhaps a lesson can be learned as to the attitude of the individual after the effort has been made. If one has done it properly, he should rest assured, knowing that he has done what Hashem wills. Then, one should leave it up to G-d; it’s in His hands; He’s responsible. If the person gets hurt in any way, after he’s done the effort, then so be it!!. It was meant to be.
No extra effort was needed with the spies. They, and all the the Jewish people, had to believe that the situation was safe to go in.
If the actress made a decision, giving it deep thought, weighing all the factors, whether she should have the removal or not, it’s truthfully irrelevant at this point, since she did what she was supposed to do and whatever happens is what is meant to be.

Privacy Between Friends

In any Jewish community there are individuals who are blessed with great mazal and make a lot of money.
 For the most part, we Jews look after our fellow Jews. The rich look after the poor. In many communities there is even a system of distribution and it’s done discreetly.
  Once an individual needed $5000. He asked the Rabbi if he can help him obtain the loan. Understandably, he asked the rabbi not to disclose his name.
 The Rabbi came to a wealthy man, presented his case and asked the wealthy man if he could possibly help out this struggling Jew.
 The wealthy man said, “I will give you $3000, however, in order for me to give the money, Rabbi, you have to disclose his name”.
 “I’m sorry sir but that is confidential” replied the Rabbi. “Then I cannot give you the money” the wealthy man said. The Rabbi got up to leave. As the Rabbi was exiting, the rich man said once more, “Rabbi I’ll give you the whole $5000, but you have to disclose the name. The Rabbi again refused and again turned to leave. “I’ll give you more than he asked for, I’ll give you $10,000!! just tell me this poor man’s identity”.
The Rabbi unequivocally said “I’m sorry, I simply cannot and will not disclose his name”.
 “Wait Rabbi”, the wealthy man called to the Rabbi as he had already crossed the threshold on the way out. “I have to discuss another important and highly sensitive matter with you, and I’m only sharing this with you because it seems like you can keep a secret”. The Rabbi took off his coat and sat down once again. “Rabbi”, the wealthy man said, ” I’m on the verge of bankruptcy and I need you to raise money for me as well”, and with that he broke down crying.
One cannot, under any circumstances violate what someone tells you in confidence. This is an invasion of privacy.
Story told over by Rabbi Baruch Dopelt