Monthly Archives: September 2009

How to open the heart

In a shiur I recently downloaded (thanks to Hirhurim‘s Joel Rich)  given by Rabbi Benji Levene, a grandson of Reb Aryeh Levin, I heard the following story. Rabbi Levene once asked his zaide, “How did you manage to open up so many chilonim, non-relgious people, to relate to other people and open their hearts to so many beautiful things in Yiddishkeit? What was your mazel?”

Reb Aryeh answered:
There was one a son and a father that came to a rebbe and they were holding a winter coat that they owned.
The father said, “Rebbe, we have a coat. One coat only that we own. Coming winter now, I need the coat, I’m an old man. I need to have this coat. My son doesn’t feel the cold the way that I do.
The son said, “Rebbe, my father sits home the whole day and I go out and bring in parnassah. I go out in the cold, he’s at home. I need this coat.

The rav is left with a problem. He can’t say “cut it in half” because then they both won’t have a coat. He has to give them an answer, though. He thinks for a minute and says, “I’ll give you an answer tomorrow. Come back tomorrow, but when you come back each of you needs to take the other person’s side. Then I’ll give you an answer.”

They came back the next day with the coat and the father tells the rebbe, “I have a coat and it belongs to my son.”
The son then says, “I have a coat and it belongs to my father.”
The rav opens his closet to reveal a coat hanging there. The rebbe says, “It’s no problem, you both have a coat for the winter.”

The father looks at the coat and says, “Rebbe can I ask you one more question? When we were here yesterday, was that coat in the closest?” The rebbe answers that it was in closet yesterday.
“So why didn’t you give it to us yesterday? Why did we have to come back today?”

The rebbe replied, “You don’t understand. When you came to me yesterday and the father said, “I have a coat and it’s mine” and the son said. “I have a coat and it’s mine”, I thought, “I also have a coat in the closet and it’s mine.”
“When you came to me today and the father says, “I have a coat and it’s his”, and the son says, “I have a coat and it’s his”, I said to myself, “I have a coat and it’s yours.”

Rabbi Levene concludes, “If you want to open up another person’s heart to yours, then open your heart to that other person. You will see how wonderful, how much magic there will be in the way that other person will open up their heart to yours.” (End of story)

Aside from being a great story for anyone in kiruv or chinuch, I think as a husband and a parent, I will try in the upcoming year to really keep this story in mind. When the uniform clothes that were picked out (and aggreeded upon) prior to going to bed are not exactly what my daughter wants to wear when she wakes up or my son tells me that other kids go to bed much later than he does, I will try to put myself there and open my heart a bit wider.

Rav Frand’s 2009 Teshuva drasha

Tonight, thanks to my wife, I was able to hear and record Rav Frand’s Teshuva drasha live at Cong. Shaarei Tzedek Mishkan Yair and sponsored by the Chicago Community Kollel.  It was great.  He addresses why our efforts to do Teshuva seem to start out strong in the beginning of each new year and then as time goes on these feeling seem to go away.  His suggestion on how to keep that feeling alive is awesome and will change your life.   It is really worth listening to between now and Yom Kippur, but I have removed the link, sorry.

UPDATE:  I have currently removed the link to allow one to listen to the shiur.  If you did listen to the shiur that I previously posted, I think it’s only fair that you make a donation to the Yad Yechiel Institute.
Make Checks Payable to: Yad Yechiel Institute
P.O. Box 511 / Owings Mills, Maryland 21117- 0511

Speeding for thrills

The photo above was taken with the camera on my cell phone.  It’s actually the rollercoaster cars of the Vertical Velocity (V2) ride at Six Flags Great America zipping past me at 70 miles per hour (from 0-70 in four seconds).

Growing up, I was wasn’t a big rollercoaster fan.  I wasn’t scared of them, but there was always that thought in my head (especially with wooden coasters, which are the best to ride on) that if I was on a ride and the car flew off the track, oh man, that would probably hurt.  As I got older I began to be less worried about this.  It’s not because my Bitachon was so great, but I realized that the odds were pretty good that nothing so horrific would happen to me.  I remember in high school reading an old interview with Abraham Maslow and he was asked what things he was sure of in life.  His answer was great.  He said that he was fairly sure that when he sat down in a chair that the chair wouldn’t break.  He based this on the fact that he has never fallen on the floor from sitting on a broken chair.  I think the same is true for most amusement park rides.

So, a week ago last Sunday I found myself in line for the V2 with my friend’s 5th grader son.  This kid loves coasters.  I happened to be the only one out of three adults willing to go with him on the ride- ok, I really wanted to go on the ride, too.  As I stood in line I was talking with a few people and found out that most of them were repeat customers for the V2.  They loved the speed and the felling of the straight 185-foot vertical freefall drop.  I stood in line, watched the cars race past me and thought about saying some Tehillim.  I got on and kept telling myself that as long as we stay on the tracks we’ll be fine.  I admit the freefall drop is pretty scary, but cool.  I got off the ride and it was over for me.  Of course, my companion wanted to again, but I said once was enough for me.

I get it, it’s fun.  But why go on any it again?   The best answer I can come up with is that people want to relive that initial thrill.  I can sympathize.  I remember my first real Shabbos.  I recall an awesome Shalosh Seudos with great niggunim.  I will never forget my first date with my wife.  We all want to go back, somehow.  The problem I have in attempting to use this real-life analogy is that it seems like you are going no where fast if you settle to go back on the same ride again and again.  Essentially you are choosing a thrill of comfort.

There are other rides based on the same principles of physics and speed in the amusement park of Yiddishkeit.  Life shouldn’t always be the same.  As I get closer to Rosh Hashana I feel more and more like I don’t really want to reach a level of ruchnius like I had on my “best Rosh Hashana ever”.  That isn’t creating something chadash, new.  That simply is going on the same ride again and somehow I don’t believe that is what Hashem wants from me this time.

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Yisrael Lipkin of Salant
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Rav Yisrael Salanter would instruct each member of the family how to behave.  He would warn them against getting angry and against idle conversation, for they were all in grave danger.  Their carefulness was to last at least through the morning when the judgement is strictest.

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka

Two talmidim came from Slobodka to visit him in a German spa.  They arrived on Friday tired from a long hard journey.  That night R’ Nosson Zvi kept the Shabbos meal short, did not permit the singing of zemiros, ate quickly, and then sent the talmidim off to sleep.

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh author speaking schedule for Sept 6th-14th

(as posted bei Dixie Yid)

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim will be arriving in the U.S. next week for about one week. He will be speaking in Lakewood, Boro Park, Flatbush, Monsey, and Toronto. The following is the schedule of his public speaking engagements.

  • Sunday, September 6th – 2:45 PM – Ateres Yesheya, Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen’s Shul – 908 E. County Line Road
  • 6:40 PM: Rav Shmuel Luria’s Kollel: 14 14th St (off Princeton Ave.)
  • Shabbos, Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeleich(Sept. 11-12th) Lakewood Schedule:
  • Friday afternoon Parsha Shiur – 2 PM, September 11th at Rav Strulowitz’s Beis Medresh (Corner Madison Ave. & 8th Street)
  • Shalosh Sheudos at Tiferes Shalom (Rav Berel Leifer’s Shul: Corner Monmmouth Ave. & 4th Street)
  • For information on Slichos and other drashos in Lakewood, please call R’ Avigdor Jerusalem at 732-363-2453
    Monsey: Tuesday night, Sept. 8th 8:30 PM at Yeshivas Ohr Someach, 244 Route 306, Monsey – Call or e-mail R’ Doniel Coren for private appointments before or after the drasha: 914-645-4199 or
    Flatbush: Wednesday night, Sept. 9th – 8:30 PM, at Bnei Binyamin Torah Center, 727 Ave. O (corner E. 8th)
    • Sunday September 13th:
    • 5:15-6 PM: At the Chassidishe Kollel (Rabbi Moeller)
    • 7:15-8:30 PM: At the home of Dr. Seidenfeld
    • Monday Morning, September 14th:
    • 9-9:45 AM at the Old Yesodei Hatorah building on Lawrence Avenue
    Boro Park: 7 PM Drasha at the Machzikei Hadas Hall, 4622 14th Ave. (Corner 47th Street)

    In addition to these public drashos, the Rav will be availible for an all day workshop on Labor (Avodah, v’havein) Day, September 7th in preperation for the new year 5770. Spots are still available for that. Please CLICK HEREfor more information and registration.

    The Rav will also be available for private appointments in Woodmere, NY on Labor Day night, this coming Monday, September 7th. For an appointment, or more information about the trip in general, please call Benyomin Wolf at 516-668-6397 or e-mail him here.

    If you have read the seforim, seen the videos, or heard the mp3s, then you know what you’re info…it’s the real deal.