Monthly Archives: June 2008

Mishpacha article about Rav Hirsch

Dr. Yitzhok Levine has posted the Mishpacha Magazine article about Rav Hirsch’s 200th birthday. It was written by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfuter and give a great history of Rav Hirsh’s life, struggles, and accompliments to Klal Yisrael (inlcuding a connection to both the beginning of the Agudath Israel and the Beis Yaakov movment). This was easily one of my favorite quotes for the article:

It is noteworthy that Rav Shimon Schwab related that the Imrei Emes once told him that “the Tzaddik of Frankfurt [Rav Hirsch] was a leibidege mussar sefer [a living morality text].”
The article is an easy read and is available here, thanks to Dr. Levine (who gave me permission to post the link).

Sundays Spark of Mussar

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter

On the Torah’s statement that a wife was created as “ezer kenegdo”, a helpmate against him,” the Talmud explains, “If he is worthy, she is a helpmate. If he is not worthy, she is against him.” R’ Yisrael added, “This applies to every minute of a person’s life. Whenever I improve myself, my wife becomes better too.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Connections and reality

First, this quote from the translation of Da Es Atzmecha by R Schwartz:

We identify with the material, and think we do Hashem a favor: “Thursday night I have a class I attend, and with that, I fulfill my responsibility to study Torah for the week.” This is the opposite of the reality. I have not met anyone who eats a piece of cake Thursday night and says, “I fulfilled my responsibility to eat for the week.” Why? Because he’s hungry! You don’t think about fulfilling your obligation. If the stomach is empty, you need to eat! If we would feel spiritual hunger the way we feel bodily hunger, we would solve the whole problem of life. The problem of life is the identification with the material. People think they have specific problems. One has this problem, another has a different problem. This is all true, but underlying it all is a root problem; namely, that we have the wrong sense of reality.

We’ve been dealing with DSL issues all week. I’ve been on the phone and off the phone for several hours all week. Tonight I was dealing with tech support for about an hour, just to get an internet connection so I could check email and, now, post. All this time and effort just to go online. As I reflect, it’s sort of silly. I did, however, recall the above quote that I read over Shavuos and realized that I am lacking in the efforts to maintain strong ‘connections’ in other areas of my life. For example, understanding Tefillah (prayer). While on hold, I decided that I can easily put as much effort into understanding Tefillah and having a stronger connection to Hashem, as I can to getting my DSL connection. We have several great seforim (books) on Tefillah.

I am not one to wave a flag and shout, “Hey! Look at me and what I’m doing!”, but I write this now only to make a concrete commitment to start spending at least an hour a week looking into what I’m actually saying when I daven (pray). In this way I hope to fullfill part of my obligation.

The ‘other’ blog

The ‘other’ blog is the one that I haven’t posted anything on since April of 2007. The basis for this ‘other blog’ has been floating in my head for over ten years. I have for the last twenty years (yeah writing that make me feel really old) read The Nineteen Letters by Rav Hirsch every summer. Now, with Hashem’s help, I’m attempting to blog about this sefer.
If interested, please feel free to read more here.

Have a great Shabbos Kodesh!

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum coming to Chicago

As sent to me by Ruby Harris:


Reb Avraham in Chicago 11-18 June

Please come!!! Tell your friends!!! Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, Director of the Jerusalem-based Azamra Institute, is a world-renowned teacher on Kabbalah, Chassidut, Healing and Environment, author of over twenty-five books, a former BBC radio producer and an accomplished musician.

Saturday June 14 at Ezras Israel 7001 N California Ave (corner of Lunt) (773) 764-8320: Talk on weekly parshah at 12:00 p.m. after Mechitza Minyan services; Class for Women at 4:00 p.m. THE SECRET OF THE MENORA

Saturday Night June 14 at 10:00 p.m. Musical Café at Young Israel of West Rogers Park 2706 W Touhy,773-743-4900 with Reb Avraham and Ruby Harris. Suggested Donation: $10. Pizza available MUSICAL CAFE MELAVEH MALKA

Sunday June 15, 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. at Cook County Forest Preserve, Morton Grove with Ruby Harris and Reb Avraham. Books, autographs, concerts, food and fun GREATER CHICAGO JEWISH FOLK ARTS FESTIVAL

Sunday June 15 at 8:15 p.m. at home of Dr. Julian Ungar 3100 west North Shore (Parkside Estates Complex: Enter from Pratt ADVANCED CLASS ON TEACHINGS OF RABBI NACHMAN 7) Monday June 16 at 8:00 p.m. at Adas Yehuda V’Shoshana (Aysh) 2548 Jasper Court, Sarah Potash Circle, Northbrook IL Phone: (847) 509-9204 PROPHETIC BLUEPRINT FOR THE COMING AGE: EZEKIEL’S ROADMAP

For more information call Peter (312) 841 0001 or Julian (219) 588 8000 or email or

Birkas Kohanim: A look inside

כד יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ. The LORD bless thee, and keep thee;כה יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ. The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; כו יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם. The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
(text from here)

This past Shabbos, in Parsha Naso, we find the Mitzvah of Birkas Kohanim. I admit that when I give my children these brachos every Shabbos night, I’m quite aware of the translation of what I’m saying, but until this week, while reading up on the fomulation of Birkas Kohanim, I really never gave the words too much thought. That, of course, has all changed.

My reseach included Rashi, Rav Hirsch’s commentary, and Rav Schwab on Prayer. I found it interesting that when the Kohanim bless B’nai Yisrael, they (the Priests) are not actually blessing “the people; rather, they are commanded to express their wish that HaKodesh Baruch Hu may bestow His blessings.” (straight out of Rav Schwab on Prayer pg 528)

This means that I’m also only wishing that Hashem blesses my own children when I say these same brachos every Shabbos night.

The first bracha, יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ is for protection and physical/material things. Food, clothing, a place to live, parnassah. All of the physical, maybe gashmius-type things that we need to live and function in this world.

The second bracha, יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ is for one’s spiritual needs. Asking that Hashem’s face should shine towards us implies that we should see the hand of Hashem in what transpires in our own lives. Hashem is in direct control of everything. The whole “being gracious unto thee” is really a hard way to translate ” וִיחֻנֶּךָּ”, which come from the word “chain” meaning favor, gift, or pleasantness. Rav Hirsh (both in his commentary and quoted by Rav Schwab [no surprise there]) say that this refers to a “spiritual endowment”. Artscoll actually quotes the Degel Macheneh Ephraim) and he says that this bracha is about finding “favor in the eyes of others”. One must have a great relationship with other and be appreciated by others, as this builds mutual respect.

The third bracha, יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם is about our relationship with Hashem. We ask for a bracha that Hashem should “lift His face” towards us. In the world of Mitzvos and Aviros, we either have opportunities to come closer to Hashem or we distance ourselves from our creator. This bracha reminds us that Hashem is never far from us. The last three words, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם “and give you peace”, descibe the peace and shalaimus (completeness) between the first two brachos, that Hashem should bless our phyiscal needs and our spiritual needs together as one.

These thoughts were said over in loving memory of my mother-in-law, Rivka bas Chaim Yosef a’h, on her first yahrzeit. A person who was protected and survived the Holocaust, had a stong attachment to Yiddishkeit, saw the chessed that Hashem did for her thoughout her life, and always knew that Hashem was with her.

Shavuos link

The following link will take you to an amazing essay based on Nachlas Yosef and a powerful message from Megillas Rus. It is well worth the print out (only 9 pages) and worth the time to read. I first heard this as a mussar schmooze (by Rabbi Moshe Wruble) while learning in E”Y in 1991. The message of how powerful even small choices are stays with me and is often times a source of comfort when I fall into thinking that “my actions don’t really change things”.

Redeption and The Power of Small Things- based on Nachlas Yosef by Rav Yosef Lipovitz