Yearly Archives: 2009

If You Were God (link) (aka Project Inspire) just posted part of  the text of one of my favorite original works written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”tl.  To check out If You Were God just click here.

I believe it was originally posted at

I’ve used this text for study goups with teens and adults of various backgrounds (in my previous career).  If you’ve never read it, please check it out.

Some great shiurim from R Efraim Twerski and other Chicagoland Gems

Here’s a new website that I recently found out about called It includes shiurim from Rabbi Efraim Twerksi, R Moshe Schechter, Dr. Julian Unger, and other true gems within the Chicago area.
I have been listening to R Twerksi’s shiurim on Netivos Shalom and have been loving them.  Kol HaKavod to Sender Baruch ben Nesanel HaCohen for this project which is truly l’Shaim Shamayim.

Spoons, sugar, Chelm, and me

Last night my son and I were talking and he mentioned a book he saw in his school library about the “Wise Men of Chelm”.  He told me one story (the one about the bell that signals the town’s fire brigade) and I, in turn told him the following:

The was once a debate in Chlem about which item actually makes tea taste sweeter: the Sugar or the Spoon.
One side held that it was the sugar because when you pour the sugar in your cup of tea and stir it, the sugar will disappear. When you can’t see the sugar then your tea is sweetened.
Now the other side believed that the tea would be sweetened by the spoon itself. The sugar’s only purpose was so that one would know how long to stir. When the sugar had dissolved then the spoon would have sufficiently sweetened the cup of tea.

My son thought this story was hilarious.  He told me that it was funny because even though everyone knows sugar makes thing sweet, in then end it really doesn’t make a difference, as long as you like sweetened tea.  He went on to bed and I kept think about this story.

People like stories that point out the silliness of others.  It’s the same reason we might laugh when we see someone trip or slip on the ice.  It makes us feel better about ourselves.  It doesn’t make us better people, though.  Like those in Chelm, I know that I tend to get confused about what is causing certain things to happen.  I’m lucky that my wife usually points this out to me.  Focusing too much on the spoon blinds you from seeing what is truly sweet in life.  (For the record, this last line too about 4 different rewrites).

“Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man.”- Pirkei Avos (4:1)

Mussar À La Breslov

I am always happy when I read something that makes me feel good about myself and what my potential is.  This is one of the things at attracted me to mussar seforim.  That knowledge of our potential also attracted me to the teaching of Reb Nachman of Breslov.  While I own a number of Breslov seforim, I’ll be the first to say that I’m no where near the level of calling myself a chossid of Reb Nachman.  I do, however, get a lot of mussar and chizuk from his teachings.  

R Lazer Brody recently posted a fantastic essay on the importance of Believing in Yourself.  It always amazes me that Hashem allows me to hear a d’var Torah or read something that happens to be exactly what I needed at that time.  R Brody’s post was one of those things that I needed to read today.
Here’s a taste of what he says:

Observant Judaism is also like a war. The Yetzer, or Evil Inclination, has an array of weapons and forces at his disposal, to deter and discourage a person from making Tshuva, or to break the heart of a person who’s trying to effectively become a ben- or bat-Torah. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be able to wipe the floor with the Yetzer.

The whole essay in all of its glory can be found here.

Why most Jews light Chanuka Candles

From Rav Yosef Stern’s Sfas Emes sefer, Days of Joy:

There’s a halacha in germara Shabbos 21b that describes how certain oils and wick are “not acceptable for Shabbos candelabra, but are permitted for the Chanuka Menorah.  The substances are prohibited for Shabbos use because of the flame’s inability to cling to the wick.  Likewise, the light of Torah is unable to fully penetrate certain souls even on Shabbos.  Yet on Chanuka these rejected wicks may be used.  So too, souls that are not inspired by the weekly Shabbos are spiritually moved by the yearly observance of Chanukah. A certain spark, an inner purity, always remains burning bright in the heart of every Jew.  This spark, know as the Nekudah HaPinimius, constrained all year long from permeating the Jewish psyche, is liberated on Chanukah through the power of praise and gratitude, for the miracles that occurred at this time”

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Yisroel Meir HaCohen, the Chofetz Chaim

He tried to avoid sending letters or books without using the mail.  When he was forced to use other means, he ripped up the stamps that would have been required, in order not to cheat the government of its income.
From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik