Monthly Archives: February 2009

Rav Yisrael Salanter and the first Ger Rebbe

Rav Yisrael Lipkin of Salant said “that perfecting one character trait is more difficult than learning all of Shas (the entire Talmud)”.

It is known that often Rav Yisrael would attend shiurm given by the Chidushei HaRim, Rav Yitzchak Meir Alter, who was the first Ger Rebbe.  The Chidushei HaRim was known for finishing all of Shas every month, in depth.  It is also know that he spent seven years working on the middah of having an Eyin Tovah (seeing the good in others).  Parhaps the Chidushei HaRim’s avodah was what prompted Rav Yisrael to make the above statement?

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka

The first resolution that R’ Nosson Zvi wrote down in his diary was “to try to be extremely careful of my fellowman’s honor, with patience, with a soft answer, never once to get excited… not to embarrass anyone in public… to find ways daily, at the very least weekly, of benefiting my friends.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Nosson Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka

The Chofetz Chaim was amazed by the way R’ Nosson Zvi transformed people.  “This craft can be practiced by R’ Nosson Zvi along.  We accept talmidim who are faithful and raise them to Torah and fear of G-d; but R’ Nosson Zvi accepts unworthy talmidim and turns them into G-d fearing scholars.  I create books; R’ Nosson Zvi creates people.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Rav Noach Weinberg and the lesson he taught me

The founder of Aish HaTorah, Rav Noach Weinberg was nifter on Thursday morning.  I never officially attended Aish HaTorah, but while learning in Eretz Yisrael (my first year) in 1991 I spent a good amount of time in the Old City at Aish attending classes personally given by the late Rosh Yeshiva.  I heard all of the “5 Levels of Pleasure” discussions, about 10 of the “48 Ways”, and was part of a small group that met in his office for 4 or 5 times for various “Outreach Seminars”.

During his discussions about Kiruv he repeated the following several times:

It’s important for those of us who believe in Hashem’s Torah to show the world that while we live according to the Torah, we do it with joy.  You must always show the Simchas HaChaim, the joy of a Torah life.  I love ice cream and I don’t mind letting you know that.  Why?  Because it’s a pleasure to eat it.  Hashem doesn’t want us to push aside thing we love that are permitted in the Torah.  Show people that you can obey all of the commandments and still like ice cream. 

This is a lesson that so important for everyone.   It makes no difference if you are in kiruv, chinuch, business, or just a parent, child, or silbling.  Enjoy life the way Hashem wants you to.  He was a true Gadol B’Kiruv. He was almost larger than life, yet totally accessable to everyone (well, this was my observation).   It is inspiring to see what effect one person can have on the world.

By the way, my favorite ice cream is Mint Chocolate Chip.

Rabbi Maryles also posted about Rav Weinberg here.
Audio downloads of the “48 Ways to Wisdom” are available here.
Text and audio of the “5 Levels of Pleasure” are available here.

Never Lose Your Head

The following, found in the Artscroll Pirkei Avos:  Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, has been on my mind recently:  


R’ Chanoch Henach of Alexander relates the following story…
A hoplessly diorganized fool determined to organize his life by recording the whereabouts of all his belongings.   Before going to sleep, he dutifully wrote:   “My clothing is hanging in the closet, my shoes are beside my bed and my head is in my bed (under the covers).”  Upon arising, he found his clothing and shoes exactly where he had specified but his head was nowhere to be found-not even in his bed!  The mussar haskil of the story:  It is not sufficient for peripheral matters to be in place, unless my head, the core of my all my thoughts and actions, is also in place (Maggidei HaEmes).


I know, for myself, that when I’m busy I tend to focus on the details of what I’m doing.  At times, those details tend to overshadow the real goals that I’m aiming for.  It’s the story above that I think about when I find myself spending more time than needed on any given task.  Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm, taught that when getting ready to perform a mitzvah one needs to “take time, be exact, and unclutter the mind”.  In order to clear one’s head, you first need to know where your head is!