Archive for The Gift of Speech

Yom Kippur


Rabbi Joel was coming back from a conference in New Jersey where he figured he’d stop at the cemetery to visit the grave of his father, since it’s conveniently on the way. As he was saying tehilim at the grave site, he notices a family burying their loved one, not far away from his father’s grave. It didn’t seem they were observant and were having a hard time with some of the rituals.

After Rabbi Joel finished saying tehilim, he walked over to the family and said ‘Can I offer you my help, I’m a Rabbi”. After getting a nod of approval, he immediately helped with the rituals and then gathered ten Men and asked the sons of the deceased to say kaddish. Unfortunately, they seemed disinterested with saying the prayer that is said for the deceased and gave him permission to finish off the ceremony himself. Rabbi Joel proceeded to say kaddish and finished the necessary customs of burying the dead. On the way back on the Belt Parkway, he felt a tremendous uplifting feeling having helped out a perfect stranger getting buried properly according to Jewish law. Through the ride back, he couldn’t stop to think about the name of the deceased, ‘Sam Rosenberg’.
             That evening as Rabbi Joel was curiously looking up Sam Rosenberg’s name on the internet for any information, he gets a call from his Rabbi. After some casual greetings, he decides to tell his Rabbi the act of kindness he did earlier that day. ‘I can’t seem to find out anything about Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island’ Rabbi Joel said in frustration. ‘What’s his name?’ his Rabbi asked. ‘Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island, why do you know him?’ Let me tell you about Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island. Thirty five years ago, I was a young rabbi convincing parents from a secular background to place their child in Yeshiva. The parents half heartedly agreed as long as it was free. I was handed a list of rich-well-to-do businessmen whom might be gracious enough to help. After a few hours, I called Sam Rosenberg who’s name was half way down the list. I began to go through my pitch on how important it is to give these boys a Jewish education and we need people who can commit long term for their studies. I told him, I have five boys that need the financial help. He said to me ‘I can only finance one; THAT ONE WAS YOU!
There is an old expression, ‘What goes around, comes around’. Be aware, Baruch Hashem, kindness is contagious.
Taken by the lectures of Rabbi Issac Olbaum
          Throughout many of our prayers, the style that our great sages evoked is to have a poem, a piyut before we start. The reason is to warm the hearts of the one praying. We are not robots, we need something to get us in the mood, to get the emotions going. So we begin with a piyut. Here we begin with LECHA ELI written by the Even Ezra.

How appropriate to start off Yom Kippur with Kol Nidrai. Man was given special powers over the other living creatures of the world. He was given the gift, the power of speech. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to abuse it even though our tongue is enwrapped with teeth and a second layer of lips. It still manages to escape and put its foot in its mouth. Kol Nidrai tries to annul our careless misuse of our mouth.

* Introduction to Slichot

Betzalel, the builder of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, knew how to combine the letters (the Hebrew letters) with which heaven and earth were created. This is how he configured to build the temple. It is written in the mystic sefarim, “If the letters were to remove themselves for an instant and return to their source, the entire heaven will be an obsolete vacuum.” The Hebrew letters are the building blocks, the foundation of the world. One can understand the essence of a person through his name which consists of a combination of the alef bet. So it wasn’t the physical strength which enabled Betzalel to succeed in enacting the temple; it was the knowledge and expertise on configuration the letters.
Chas ve shalom – if we sin, these spiritual letters are erased, damaged. These are the same letters that enlighten the neshama, that the spiritual and physical world depends on. How do we fix it? How do we un-damage the letters?
If one notices many of the peyutim, paragraphs, poems are in alphabetical order Alef till taf, taf till alef (A-Z, Z-A) The philosophy is to fix the damage by reciting the letters in KEDUSHA form and in a proper state of mind; therefore, creating a positive force. Then one will re-organize, re-configure, re-structure the letters properly and fix the damage. So we find throughout the Slichot, actual in our everyday Tefillot – prayer as well, this format. A few examples: ASHRAI, ANSHAI EMUNA AVADU, ADON HASELICHOT. So it’s important to realize what the chachamim are trying to accomplish. By reinventing the letters again, it will give us a fighting chance.

This prayer is referring to Yona, the prophet, who did not want to perform his task out of fear that the Jews will not repent. So he basically tried to phase himself out of the picture, thinking that G-d does not reveal, talk to His prophets at sea. Yona fled and took refuge on a ship. As the ship sailed, though, G-d brought upon a bad storm. People on board were terrified. The passengers and crew figured it must be someone on board that’s the cause of their misfortunes. So each one prayed to their G-d. However, none of their prayers were answered. “Someone didn’t pray.” So they searched the entire ship and they found Yona asleep. This is the basis of the prayer. “Hey man! Why are you asleep? Go call, pray to your G-d!” Before one knows it, time, life marches on. So go call your G-d before it’s too late.

This is the main part of slichot. The Rosh Hashanah method was malchiot, shofrot, and zichronot. Here we are shifting methods. It’s a great strategy of “Doing it for the merit of our fathers.” However, that doesn’t always work. Its limited.
VA YA AVOR HASHEM AL PANAV – G-d passed before him and proclaimed. He taught Moshe something essential, vital for survival. When Moshe was on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, G-d showed Moshe the method and the text of the special prayer that will always invoke his mercy, unlimited RACHAMIM. G-d said “When Israel sins, let them perform the order of this prayer and I shall forgive them.” An important note, it says perform, besides recitation; one also has to perform acts of mercy with others in order to receive mercy. Only then will G-d respond.
When someone loses a close loved one, one goes through tremendous hardship in the beginning. The mere thought of the one who had passed on evokes a sharp, stinging, uncomfortable pain. As time goes on, though, the memory of the loved one is there; however, the traumatic experience has softened quite a bit. Our forefather, Yaacov, made a promise to G-d after he got up from his dream, “If G-d takes care of his servant, Yaacov, then the stone will be a covenant to you.” Apparently, Yaacov got tangled some twenty years plus in the house of his crooked father-in-law, Lavan. G-d then approached Yaacov and asked “Why did you forget your promise?” He answered, “I didn’t forget.” What did G-d mean when He said “Why did you forget?” Yaacov forgot the feeling. You don’t feel now as when you felt then. REMEMBER – ZACHOR – memory has different levels. If one wants to remember a deceased loved one with the same intensity, then he has to work, meditate to bring back that feeling. Measure for measure, G-d remembers us the same way we remember Him. Appropriately, ZACHOR LANU is sung by the chazzan with intensity to jar up feelings and memories.


The Avoda re-enacts the entire crucial ceremony of the high priest entering the holy of holies where he will find out the fate of the nation for the upcoming year. If the prayers were accepted, then the high priest departs from the holy of holies alive and everybody is happy. We also go into detail of the sacrifices that occurred on this holy day. Interesting to note that one she-goat is sacrificed and the other is thrown off a cliff apparently given to azzazel – the devil. Why do we practice this? Do we really have to give something to the devil? As a result of Adam’s sin, nothing in this world is 100% good; there is always a negativity attached. An example, when we eat food, no matter how much nourishment it provides, a person will always have to relieve himself. Again, it’s the result of the punishment. So, too with the she-goat. It’s a reminder to us of the negativity that was brought upon the world.

Ne’ila is the most important prayer of the year. It has to be said BEN HASHMASHOT which is between sunset and nightfall. This is the time when Adam and Chava sinned and brought death onto the world. We are trying to prevent death. The in-between time is always a crucial and intense time of life and we are often tested. When traveling and one is in between destinations, it is often dangerous, so one should say special prayers to prevent harm. There is tremendous rewards if one passes the test “in-between”. For this reason, NE’ILA is a very important tefila. Even when one departs from this world and is in between life and death, a person is tested one last time. The Mystics say it’s the ultimate test; in fact, all the marbles are being placed on the poker table. When one dies, he first goes through this momentary scary nothingness. The Satan approaches the individual and tries to convince him, “You see, there’s nothing here, it was all a farce. There is no heaven and there is no hell and there is certainly no G-d.” If at that point the individual is convinced, he loses everything. All the good he did in this world is wiped out. The crucial in-between time has to be approached very carefully and prudently.


The Symbols of the Rosh Hashana Table and its Mechanism

Symbols; How does it work? Can it really benefit us?  On Rosh Hashanah, a traditional practice is to eat simanim, or symbolic foods, in order to presage good things for the future.  The origin of eating simanim can be found in the Talmudic discussion of omens (Horayot 12a; Keritot 6a). Abayei comments that since “simana milta,” “omens are of significance,” a person should make it a practice to “see” [other texts state to “eat”] five specific symbolic foods at the Rosh Hashanah table. According to the Talmud, these foods are “qara,” “rubya,” “kartai,” “silka” and “tamari” (gourd, fenugreek, leek, beets and dates). Other foods have been added over time, such as the pomegranate.


There have been many Jewish scholarly interpretations over the centuries concerning which bean-like food was meant by Abaye and so, different Jewish communities follow different rabbinical interpretations of what was meant by Abaye


Regarding whether the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah were to be eaten or simply displayed on the Rosh Hashanah Seder table was a subject of debate among various Talmudic authorities. The custom that was decided upon was simply to recite blessings over each symbolic food, touching each food in turn while blessing it. Today, the custom is to recite the appropriate “Yehi ratzon” blessing over each food, and to sample each of the symbolic foods in turn.

The following is a basic structure of a Rosh Hashanah Seder. Mind you there are many customs.


One recent custom I heard involves lettuce, half a raisin and celery.


Its prevalent in United States- it’s a play on words  “let-us have a raise in salary”. Now if you think I’m being a wise guy, well…. think again.
Some have a custom to recite the symbolic Yehi Ratzon before washing of the hands and some after one eats bread

We dip the bread after we say the blessing of HAMOTZIE LECHEM MIN  HA’ARETZ in honey instead of the customary salt. Honey is symbolic of having a sweet year.

Why do we add UMEH TUKA when we say shana tova?
The ultimate believe and trust in G-d is to understand that everything HE does is for the good even if the situation is bleak. We would not be able to see the truth until we leave this world. Mind you, relegion is a belief. We reaffirm our belief by the first statement (shana tova) However by adding UMETUKAH we suggest to make the good, though be sweet and wonderful.


Why do we dip the apple in honey?

When Yitzchak requested to smell Yaakov, after Yaacov dressed up like his brother Eisav to receive the bracha instead of him, Rashi comments that he smelled an apple tree from Gan Eden and he knew, then, he’s giving the bracha to the right son. This kindness that G-d did with Yaakov is reiterated on Rosh Hashana by dipping Apples in honey

Honey represents sweet year. Our Sages recognize the value of honey They call it a “sixtieth of the manna” because it shares many of the curative qualities of the nourishment food from heaven which our ancestors ate in the wilderness.
Nowadays the term honey means bee’s honey, but the famous Biblical verse ” A land filled with milk and honey” refers to date honey. Dates are one of the seven species characteristic of the land of Israel.


In earlier times the tall majestic date palm and its nourishing fruit were a symbol of victory and prosperity  The pillars of the holy Temple were decorated with palm leaves in relief. It has the ability to relieve depression according to the Rambam. Dates are known as “tamri” is related to the word “tamri,” meaning consume or finish. This food is similar to the beets and leeks in that it is eaten with the intent that all enemies will end their detrimental wrath.


Yehi ratzon milfanecha ……..sheh-yee-tahm’u oy-vay-nu.
May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be finished


The prayer for the pomegranate is “sheyirbu zechuyoteinu kerimon. It is one of the Shivat Haminim, the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised (Deuteronomy 8:8), and was one of the fruits brought back by the Twelve Spies (Numbers 13:23). Both the decorative items hanging from the Kohen Gadol’s robe (Exodus 28:33-34; 39:24-26), as well as the ornaments atop two columns in the Beit Hamikdash built by King Solomon, resembled pomegranates (I Kings 7:13-22; Jeremiah 52:22-23; cf. Tosefta Ohalot 13:9). The pomegranate is mentioned in Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, as a symbol of beauty. Rimon, the Hebrew name for pomegranate, may be derived from ram, which means high or elevated, because unlike other fruits pomegranate are lumpy rather than smooth.


Pomegranate is mentioned in the Song of Songs six times and many times elsewhere in the Bible. It is likely that the famous six pointed Star of David symbol of the Jewish Monarchy, was inspired by the “crown” of the pomegranate. When its spikes are flattened they form the familiar star. According to a Kabalistic interpretation, the six points of the star are composed of two superimposed triangles. One triangle represents Pesach, Shavuot and Sucot the three festivals spent at the Temple in Jerusalem. The second triangle represents Rosh Hashana, Yom Kipur and the Shabbat- the three festivals that have no obligation to be spent in Jerusalem.


The misconception about the pomegranate having 613 seeds is widespread, but its source is readily apparent.  The pomegranate is also a symbol of fertility, and thus of the unlimited possibilities for the New Year.


Beets- Lav Lehvu

Beets are known as “silka,” related to the word “siluk,” meaning removal. The adversaries referred to in the prayer before eating the beet are the spiritual roadblocks created by the past year’s missteps that must be removed before a sweet New Year is granted.
Yehi ratzon milfanecha ……sheh yestalku oyvaynu….may it be your will that our adversaries will be removed.


Black-Eyed Peas- Ruvia

Egyptian Jews and others eat black-eyed peas because they are called Rubya, related to the Hebrew word rov meaning a lot, manyyehi ratzon….sheh yirbu zechiyatenu



We eat leeks in the hopes that our enemies will be destroyed. The Hebrew word for leeks is “Karsi,” which sounds like “kares”, to be destroyed. The Artscroll Machzor lists the יהי רצון on leeks as:
יהי רצון מלפנך, ה’ אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו, שיכרתו שונאינו

Note: We eat gourds squash (the family to which pumpkins belong) in the hopes that any evil decree against us will be destroyed and our merits proclaimed (rendering a favorable judgment). The Hebrew word for gourd is קרע (k’ra), which is also the word for ‘tear/rip’ and sounds like the word for ‘read/proclaim’ – קרא. The Artscroll Machzor lists the יהי רצון for gourd as:
יהי רצון מלפנך, ה’ אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו, שיקרע גזר דיננו ויקראו לפניך זכויותינו

May it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our forefathers, that the decree of our sentence be torn asunder; and may our merits be proclaim


We should be like the head and not the tail

Weather it be the head of a kosher animal or fish this symbolic custom is a bracha for great achievement in spirituality. If our spiritual side see’s success then automatically our physicality will have bracha. We should be in the head of the class and not in the back of the line.


Since fish live under the water and are thus concealed from view, they are protected from the gaze of the seventy nations of the world. Its a symbol against the evil eye. Fish is a symbolic expression of our wish that our merits may multiply like the fish of the sea.


There is a direct connection between our physicality and our spiritual side. What happens here has an effect there. The physical symbols are there to awaken the spiritual counterpart. The tool that we are provided with is through physical actions and speech.


G-d gave man the ability, the gift to express himself through speech, and we clearly see it from these symbolic practices. When one recites the yehi ratzon he should have deep concentration like he does with his prayers. Interestingly, there is a pattern where we derive these symbols through puns, words that sound the same. The power of speech is such that even words that have similar sounding puns can affect our fate. The angels say amen to what we utter and it happens.


Its funny, the Chofetz Chaim suggest to an extent that one can utter puns in his comfortable language and that in essence can be symbolic. That’s astonishing! One can change fate through the English language through puns. It works in every language. That’s how, to a large extent, the power of speech works.  This is the formula of how symbols have an opportunity to materialize our life into a sweet year.

Man’s Word Should Be As Good As Gold

This article was constructed with the help of Dr. Robert Goldman-Psychologist at Yeshiva Chafetz Chaim and Rabbi Yitzchak Aminov   
Guy is driving in suburban Jerusalem when he sees a sign: “talking dog for sale”. “WOW!” he says “I gotta see this!”
The man rings the bell. The owner directs the man to the back yard where the dog is lounging, sipping on a pina colada.
The man asks, “so you can talk?” The dog answers “yep.” “So tell me your story” the man asks. The dog answers “well, I discovered I can talk when I was very young and I wanted to use my abilities to help others out. So I informed the Mosaad agency (Israeli intelligence) about my gift. I was working in no time. I was sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders and suspected terrorists. Because No one realized a dog can eavesdrop, I was one of their most valuable agents for eight years.
However it was exhausting work; it really tired me out. I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a less stressful job at Ben-Gurian Airport to do some under cover security work. I was wondering near suspicious characters and listening in. During this period of time I got married and had a mess of puppies, so now I’m just retired.”
Guy was amazed!!
He asked the owner how much he wants for the dog.
The answer was $10.
The man was astonished “why so cheap?”
The owner answers back, “the dog is a liar; he never worked for the Mossad.”

We should ask ourselves, are we careful when we speak to people?
How many of us really keep our word?
How many of us will grow big noses if the Pinocchio concept holds truth?
This week one of the subjects discussed in the parshiot are vows.
Perhaps it will be interesting to explore the reasons why man makes vows. And more importantly, how will he be able to keep his vows.
If one only knew the importance of keeping a vow he would be a little more careful.
We all learned about the famous dream that our forefather Yaakov had. There were a set of Angels going up and a set of Angels were going down a later. When he woke up he realized the importance of the place he was in and that G-d is sending him a message. Yaakov responded by telling G-d “I will do your will but please protect and sustain me. Then I will make a covenant on this very ground”.
Many years past and Yaakov weathered many storms. He survived his dangerous brother, Eisav, who hated him and survived the evil Lavan, his father in law. Yaakov entered the land of Israel and settled there for a while. He even passed “the place”; however no covenant was made.
Yaakov’s quite and tranquil time ended abruptly where he encountered the rape of his daughter, Dina, and the disappearance of his son, Yosef. Our sages tell us this was due partially because he didn’t keep his word and make the covenant. G-d had to give Yaakov a reminder; HELLO!! And order him to make the covenant.
How can our forefather, Yaakov forget?
Many people who make vows mean well and intend to keep them. However situations change and many find it difficult to keep.
Let us examine what transpires when a person makes a vow and what occurs after that one has a change of heart.
There was a man by the name of Palti ben Laish who was forced to marry the beautiful Michal, King Shaul’s daughter. One may say this is a dream come true, to marry the King of Israel’s daughter; he’s set for life. However, there was an underlying problem; the King tried to annul Michal’s first marriage to one named David ben Ishai whom Shaul despised.
The first marriage was valid, nevertheless the king decreed she is no longer married to David. Now, who has the nerve to argue with the king?
What is Palti to do?
The punishment is Sevier.
When Palti and Michal came to their honeymoon suite, Palti did something profound. He stuck his sword right in the middle of the bed and proclaimed “I do not touch a married woman!! No one shall remove it!!”
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz asks, “that’s beautiful, hey, a dramatic pause please!! Nevertheless when time passes and the couple warms up to each other, do you really think a dead idle sword will stand in the way of PASSION?!
Rav Chaim answers, “he stuck the sword there purposely. It will always remind him of the definitive strong emotions he had when stating, without a doubt, she is forbidden!! SHE IS NOT HIS!! And that reminder will enable him to stop.
Dr. Goldman points out when one makes a vow, at that moment, he’s enthusiastic and emotionally exited about making the statement. However as time goes on, chances are the enthusiasm will decrease. It is not the same. Therefore the absent of the feeling causes him to be forgetful or think it’s difficult to keep.
Rav Aminov says a person can go to a Rav and annul his vow petach atara on the grounds that it is too difficult. However, one should know swearing and making vows, especially using G-d’s name should not be taken lightly; it’s a stringent Torah law.
There was an outcast warrior among the Jews by the name of Yiftach. The Jews had no choice but to choose him. He was their only chance to win the war.
When the Jews were victorious Yiftach said something foolishly. In his enthusiasm and love for G-d, he vowed “the first thing that comes out of my house I will sacrifice to HAKADOSH-BARUCH-HUE. Of course he had in mine an ox or a sheep. However, this Cinderrella story took a different and nasty turn. When he returned from the battlefield, his daughter came out. Unfortunately, Yiftach took his vows pretty seriously and fully intended to take his daughter to the slaughter.
Yiftach could have annulled the vow, but instead he rationalized it was beneath his dignity to go to the high priest, Pinchas to ask for the annulment. His ego failed his daughter; so much for priorities. Apparently she did not die however she was considered HEKDESH-changed status therefore not permitted to marry. She withered away like an old maid.
We see from the Torah that vows were taken very seriously. Yosef went through painstaking efforts to honor his father’s request to be buried in Israel. Before leaving Egypt, Moshe, the leader of the Israelites searched through all of Egypt to find Yosef’s bones to be transferred to the promised land.
Astonishingly the sea split when it saw Yossef’s bones. The reason was because of Yossef’s merits, though also, because of Moshe’s ability to keep a vow.
Vows were meant to make us better human beings. However sometimes it seems like one takes upon himself too much. We read in our evening prayer “take away the Satan (evil inclination) from before us and from behind us.” It makes sense that the satan is in front of us; He puts many enticing thing in front of our eyes. But what is meant by the satan enticing us from behind?
The Sages answer that he comes up behind us and pushes us forward and says “hey, you can do it; you’re ready”. The problem is, you’re really not ready yet. This is perhaps dangerous because if one stumbles and falls he might have a very hard time getting up. Sometimes one never can recover.
So a man makes a vow to improve his status as a Jew, as a human being. However, at times, due to the evil inclination he over-reacts because of his enthusiasm.
I find the joke about the talking dog a bit humorous. When I read it a second time it occurred to me, that even though it’s just a joke, the dog’s value plummeted because he lied. The same goes for mankind; a person’s value decreases if one doesn’t keep his word. It’s an important lesson everyone should take to heart and be sensitive to, including yours truly.

Mankind’s Precious Gift




Today, when we swear or take upon ourselves a vow, one can bet the house that the percentage of keeping it is, sadly, not very good odds. Although our intentions are genuine and we give it the old college try, we are not trained or as disciplined as our great ancestors were, to be more careful in this area. Boy, if one only knew how important hatarat nedarim and Kol Nidrei are (invalidating vows and oaths before Yom Kippur and at the start of Yom Kippur). Apparently, even annulling the vows and oaths are not a simple matter. It should not be taken lightly and done hastily like it was second nature.
It was said about Nevuchadnetzar that when he died, they were scared in Gehenom – hell – that such a terror was joining them. As one knows his history, he destroyed the first Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylonia. Nevuchadnetzar was known to be a cruel tyrant, never-the-less had sparks of goodness that the sages said were most impressive.

In his early years as emperor, he treated the Jewish king Tzidkiyahu, respectfully. When Tzidkiyahu came to Bavel to affirm his alliance to the emperor, Nevuchadnetzar granted him free access to the palace. He appointed him, Tzidkiyahu, ruler over the king of Edom, Moav, Amnon, Tzor, and Tzidon. Tzidkiyahu once entered Nevuchadnetzar private dining room unannounced, and found him tearing the limbs from a living rabbit as he ate it. Eating the limbs of a living animal is forbidden by Noachide law, even to a non-Jew. Apparently, Nevuchadnetzar did not wish to make this public knowledge and give the impression he had cruel habits. Embarrassed, Nevuchadnetzar commanded Tzidkiyahu, “Swear that you will never reveal what you witnessed.” He did swear; however later, a wind of stupidity fell upon him and requested the Great Sanhedrin (the House of Jewish Judges) to annul his oath. Unfortunately, this wind of stupidity was contagious and they did. Their annulment proved fatal to them and put a bad taste in Nevuchnadnetzar’s mouth toward the Jews.



Tzidkiyahu once foolishly disclosed the embarrassing incident of Nevuchadnetzar to the five kings at a dinner, which they apparently immediately dispatched this confidential disclosure to the Babylonian palace. So much for friends.



Nevuchadnetzar, unsurprisingly, considered Tzidkiyahu’s offense an act of treason. He ordered Tzidkiyahu and the Sanhedrin to appear before him, where he gave the sages seats of honor. He then asked them to expound the Torah before him. The Sanhedrin proceeded to translate one Parsha at a time. When they arrived at the subject of vows in Parsha Matot. the Emperor inquired, “If someone wishes to annul a vow, may he do so?” “He can go to the Sage” they replied, “who has the authority to annul his vow.”



“Now, I know Tzidkiyahu betrayed me!” the emperor accused them, “He came to you and you annulled his oath!”



Nevuchadnetzar commanded that each member of the Sanhedrin be tied by his hair to a horse’s tail and be dragged from Yerushalayim to Lud.



This tragic event was one of many that foreshadowed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.



G-d has given mankind a precious gift – speech – as well as many important laws attached to it. He can take this gift and take this world to the highest chamber in heaven. However, he can also destroy it and bring it down to the lowest depths of Gehenom.



The Art of Rebuke




What is the best method to criticize and get good results in return, from loved ones, friends, employees, or subordinates? How about this; “HEY, IDIOT YOU BLEW IT, MY FIVE YEAR OLD COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB!!! How do you think that will work? I know many who use that approach. Or, how about the old famous rebuke “I told you so”, That always makes a person feel good about himself. Now, which one is best suited for your style? Pick your poison.



Generally speaking, we don’t take criticism very well and truth be told only few methods are effective.


Rav Henoch Leibowitz z”tl, brings a beautiful example of an effective rebuke. Miriam and Aharon, who were the brother and sister of Moshe, the leader of the Jews, were discussing how Moshe was not spending enough time with his wife. “He’s too busy working late in the office”. This constitutes speaking Lashon Harah – speaking bad about someone. G-d then rebukes them.  However, listen to the kind of language He uses when he approached them “Listen, please, to my words.” WOW, PLEASE!! What’s this “please” business? Although G-d was angry for speaking lashon harah on Moshe, however, He used nice pleasant words in rebuke. If G-d would have been tough, He would not have been heard. One can argue if it was a more harsher tone, they would have felt the severity of the sin. However, by nature, man doesn’t like to be rebuked and if it’s in an angry tone, he would shut it out even more. A person would automatically develop a defense mechanism and not comprehend the full value of the rebuke. This is especially true if the poor guy is being screamed at. He will not comprehend anything from the criticism. This goes against the goal of what was intended of the rebuke; the idea is to get the message across.


It’s also recommended to give an example.We find Natan, the prophet, giving an example to King David after David hastily and conveniently sent Batsheva’s husband, Uri Hachiti, to the front battle. Natan figured out David’s true intentions. A little while later, he was killed in battle. Natan asked David, “If a rich man stole a cow from a poor man, what would you do your majesty?” “The rich man should be punished.”, David replied. “That’s you, your highness, you’re the rich man”. Natan said it in such a way that David was able to accept fault. He didn’t realize until Natan’s example to what extent his crime was.


We have to know how sensitive a person is before we criticize. An example is Reuben and his father Yaacov. Yaacov had four wives; imagine getting rebuked not by one, but four wives. KOL HAKAVOD. After Rachel died, Yaacov transferred his primary bed to Bilah’s tent instead of his mother, Leah’s. Reuben felt his mother’s honor would be hurt so he moved the bed to his mother’s tent. It was a lack of respect on his part to play marriage counselor. Although Yaacov did not approve, he didn’t say a word until he was on his death bed. Yaacov rationalized Reuben was so sensitive that he would totally lose it and may even join his (Yaacov) wicked brother, Eisav.


Sometimes rebuke is just stating the facts. We find when Yosef revealed to his brothers, his true identity “I am you brother, Yosef”. That line, itself, was the most devastating rebuke one can give. The brothers realized at that moment their whole philosophy, their way of thinking, all these years was wrong. Yosef’s dream, for the most part, came true; they were shocked, confused, and devastated.


The Sages say the last rebuke is what we all are going to go through after 120. When we enter the Olam ha’emet, the heavens, where there is no false. The truth will be disclosed and we’ll be standing there staring at the truth and nothing but the truth, and feeling humiliated. This is considered the ultimate rebuke.


Tidbits on Parshat Eikev



As we discussed in the highlights section of this newsletter, the second passage in the Shema, Ve’haya im sha’moa, which is one of the most famous prayers, is found in this week’s Parsha. It is written here, that these words should be recited twice daily. It emphasizes one should take upon himself the acceptance of G-d’s commandments. Generally, this section, as opposed to the previous section, G-d promises supernatural rewards (rain and prosperity) for fulfillment of the Mitzvot, and punishment (drought and exile) for their abandonment, is written in plural form. It’s implying that the reward and punishment are conferred only in response of the majority.


Interesting to note, the Gemarah in Brachot 15:b, derives from the word ve’limaditem –  and you should teach them – which implies that your studies shall be pure – that one must pause between those words that tend to be attached. My grandfather, who was a chazzan, would emphasize to me, to be clear and look up when you talk. Here the Gemarah implies that we should enunciate the words flawlessly. Indeed, we find in many of the siddurim, one of which, here, is Sharai Tsion, where there are warning signs where one could err. If one notices in the picture, some words where it could be problematic, there is an asterisk on an ending letter of a word and one at the beginning letter of the next words. Implying, one should stop and be careful in the pronunciation and not crunch them together. Many are careful in reciting the Shema.

In the verse (10:12), “What does your G-d ask of you,” “what” in Hebrew is pronounced ‘ma’. Ma is also defined as a hundred. So it could be read “A hundred is what G-d asks of you.” The verse alludes to a Rabbinical ordinance requiring each Jew to recite a hundred brachot daily. This ruling was instituted due to the following events:          In King David’s time, G-d caused a plague which tragically took the lives of 100 Jews each day. Searching for the reason of this punishment, David perceived through prophesy that the Jews failed to bless G-d sufficiently for His daily kindness to them. David, therefore, decreed that every Jew recite 100 blessings daily. The plague then stopped.

It’s a bit difficult to achieve this daily. A few helpful tips is the brachot we say first thing in the morning (about 15) and the Amida – silent prayer – both in silent and the repetition (about 38).


Hitting the Rock


The children of Israel screamed out, ‘We want water! We want water!’ Where thereafter, Moshe took the stick and hit the rock resulting in water streaming out. ‘Why did you hit the rock?’ G-d asked disappointingly. The Sages were unclear what exactly was G-d’s commandment to Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people. Was Moshe commanded to speak to the rock whereby instead he hit it? Or the fact that G d instructed Moshe to take his stick, presumably, indicates He may have wanted him to hit it. This is the question in which Rav Henoch Leibowitz z’l of Yeshiva Chafetz Chaim presents. Was the commandment to ‘speak’ or ‘hit’ the rock?

  We know Moshe was punished for this incident and was prohibited to enter the land of Israel – something that he desired greatly. Despite praying and pleading with G-d before he died, his quest to pilgrimage with the rest of the Jewish people to Israel was denied. The answer to this question is both. Moshe was commanded to speak to the Israelites first, in front of the rock, and to announce G-d’s great miracle in a thunderous way. It will take place through His trusted servant who will perform the task by hitting it. However, Moshe and Aharon merely said, ‘Listen up; we will now draw water from the rock by hitting it’. Moshe and Aharon had to be clearer and emphasize the wondrous hand of G-d, that this was a momentous moment. Therefore because they weren’t clear, G-d rebuked them, stating ‘you did not believe in me.’ But isn’t it clear and pretty obvious that G-d commanded Moshe. The Israelites knew Moshe was His faithful servant and every breath, every step , which was taken, was done with G-d’s signature. I mean -really – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out G-d is pushing the controls.
Perhaps the Torah is trying to teach us an important lesson about ourselves. Man has a much higher impression and a stronger feeling when the information he receives is straightforward and clear (stating G-D DID IT!). However, if the message is trickled down by hints, it doesn’t have the same effect; it’s not impactful. Therefore, when G-d said ‘you are not believers in enhancing my ambiance in the eyes of the children of Israel’. By Moshe and Aharon not elaborating their action, they caused a decreased spiritual force in the world. The result of the ‘hint’ weakened the impression that it was G-d who made the water come out from the rock. G-d gave us the gift of speech; something animals lack, and it’s our obligation to express ourselves properly. We all heard of the expression ‘words penetrate the heart’. The sages say there is no comparison between hearing, which has a stronger effect than seeing. G-d set the stage for Moshe to infuse his awareness upon the Israelites; he had to articulate with his speech what G-d planned to do. Think of it as an announcer describing an exciting baseball game. The announcer has to be gifted in describing the game and keeping the fans, tuned in and interested. I have an aunt living in Israel who would always talk very positively about the land and the Jewish people. Every time we come across a positive experience, she would comment, ‘You see, you don’t need to go to America. You have America here.’ She would verbally describe every experience and make it seem adventurously fun. My aunt has a gifted knack to use her words to the fullest ….. Unfortunately, Moshe missed that precious opportunity. We have to learn from this incident that G-d bestowed upon man the precious gift of speech and it’s our responsibility to utilize it to the best of our ability.