Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Yitzchok Blazer

Sometimes our sages use the expression “goes down to Gehinom”; other times they say “falls into Gehinom.”  R’ Itzele explained that the difference reflects the different kinds of sins.  Sometimes the descent into Gehinom is a gradual decay process.  But there are some sins that catapult a person into Gehinom in a flash.

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Priority-1 Parenting Expo in Chicago this Sunday

(Click Graphic to Enlarge)

IT’S 5769.

Today’s world moves lightening fast. And with it, the challenges your children face and the issues they confront. What concerned you last year may be half of what you need to know today. Are there better ways to keep our children on track and ensure their success?

Add to your knowledge and learn real techniques to stay in touch with your children at the Priority-1 Parenting Expo – Chicago.

  • Eye-opening workshops led by expert Mechanchim and key specialists in social and emotional child development.
  • Proven methods to increase your child’s love for Yiddishkeit and learning.
  • Confidential talk time with Hashkafic and mental health experts.
  • Valuable free educational material to help you succeed in raising happy,   healthy, frum children.
Interactive workshops with:
Rabbi Zev Cohen Rav, Congregation Adas Yeshurun
Mrs. Michal Cohen, LCSW Jewish Child and Family Services
Mr. Gavriel Fagin, LMSW Director, Tikunim Counseling
Dr. Dovid Lieberman, Ph.D. Renowned Author and Lecturer
Rabbi Dr. Jerry Lob, Psy.D. Noted Clinical Psychologist

One on one consultations with:
Rabbi Yossie Feintuch, LMSW Principal, Torah Academy
Rabbi Yitzchok Goldberg, MS Principal, Yeshiva Darchei Torah

Special keynote presentation by:
Rabbi Shaya Cohen Founder, Priority-1

Sunday, April 26th, 6:30-10:00 pm
Chicago Marriott at O’Hare Airport 8535 West Higgins Road, Chicago

Suggested Donation: $18. For more information call 800-33-FOREVER or contact us
Presented by the Priority-1 Community Training Initiative.
Under the auspices of Harav Reuven Feinstein, S”hlita.

This important event is co-sponsored by the following local organizations:
Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago
The Foundation for Learning and Development
Jewish Child and Family Services

Rav Hirsch on "What the World Stands On…"

Like most people, I learn Pirkei Avos on Shabbos starting after Pesach and finishing six weeks later.  The following is part of Rav Hirsch’s commentary on this Pirkei Avos:   Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness. (Chap 1, Mishna 2)

Torah implies the knowledge of the truth and the will of God with regard to every aspect of our lives, personal and public, individual and social.  Avodah denotes dutiful obedience, service God by fulfilling His will in every phase of our lives, personal and pubic, individual and social.  Gemiluth Chasidim signifies selfless, active loving-kindness to promote the welfare of our fellow-man.  These are the three things which shape and perfect the world of man and all that pertains to it in accordance with the measure and way of its destiny.  Whenever and wherever any of these three are inadequate or altogether lacking there is a gap which cannot be filled and there is no manifest destiny.  Without Torah the human spirit lacks the wellsprings of true knowledge; it will be blind to the basic, indispensable element which makes man a human being and it will be receptive to everything except truth and light.  Without Avodah man cannot have the proper attitude towards God, his Master and Creator, and toward the world into which God put him in order to develop and protect it in accordance with God’s will.  Instead of serving God he will think he is  a master when, as a matter of fact, he will be the slave of his passions and his lust.  He will pander to anything that he feels can serve or prejudice his interests, instead of being exalted and ennobled by him in accordance with God’s purpose, everything he touches will receive the impress of his depravity and error.  If he omits Gemiluth Chasadim he will be without that characteristic which is the  very first trait of godliness.  Instead of being God-like in acting as a creator of happiness and prosperity for his fellow-man, he will harden his heart in callous selfishness, and mankind will lack that bond of brotherhood and loving-kindness within which alone all happiness and joy of life can prosper.

Yeah, I know, it’s a long quote.  But, in these words, Rav Hirsch (as rendered into English by Gertrude Hirschler in 1967) really sums up Torah Judaism and our place in the world.  He not only shows us how Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim must enhance our world, but Rav Hirsch skillfully draws a picture of what a person is like who doesn’t engage in these three things.  He willl:  “be receptive to everything except truth and light”, “be the slave of his passions and his lust”, and “harden his heart in callous selfishness, and mankind will lack that bond of brotherhood and loving-kindness within which alone all happiness and joy of life can prosper”.

The image of a three-legged table isn’t just a random picture.  If one doesn’t exercise a balance of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim then it’s as if the table is either missing a leg or the table is slanted.  Either way, it isn’t stable.  We see that all three elements must exist in order to achieve a “balanced” Torah observant Jew.

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka

Entering R’ Nosson Zvi’s house, a tamid removed his hat, and placed it, brim down, on the table.  R’ Nosson Zvi scolded him, saying, “The brim of the hat is wet from perspiration.  How can you soil the tablecloth with it?  This is considered doing damage.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

The unchanging Guard

I am not a fan of Right Guard.  I wasn’t a fan of it when I was, like, 12 or 13 yrs old, and now that I’m 38 I am still not a fan.  I dread having to use it every Pesach.  It’s really as simple as that.  However, I also hope every year that when I buy my “Pesach can” of Right Guard, it will smell different.

The smell of the stuff hasn’t changed in years.  As newer advances in technology and medicine take place, as more and more people become “connected” in our global village, Right Guard stays the same.  Maybe that’s the point.  Once a year, we come to Pesach and each of us has that vort we love to say over at the Seder, that recipe that everyone loves, and those one or two items that the kids made in school that are always on the table. Sometimes, not changing things, is actually a nice change.

Birkas HaChama

R Selig Starr zt”l often told his talmidim that “you should know what you know and know what you don’t know”.  I have heard this from several of his former talmidim from HTC and my son has heard it his current rebbe, who was one of R Starr’s students.

Until about 9 months ago, I had no clue what Bircas HaChama was.  I became Torah observant when I was 16, in 1987 and, of course, that last time we said this tefillah was in 1981.  I did get a copy of R Bleich’s original sefer on this event thanks to someone who was giving away their late father’s Judaica library, so I was able to read up and a fairly good understanding of the event.  This year I will, like my 9 yr old son, experience this for the first time.

All too often there are so many “routine” things in Torah observant life.  For me, it’s nice to learn about a not so common event and still feel that I’m part of a “global happening”.  

B’nai Machshava Tovah transalated online

I had posted briefly before about this project by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.  Recently I’ve had an urge to reread his transation of B’nai Machshava Tovah by Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira z’tl.  Reb Yaacov Dovid’s translation, titled, “Experiencing the Divine: A Practical Jewish Guide” is a very welcome change from the original translation

What I am fascinated by is that the Guidance and Principles and the Rules of the Group are very similar to the concepts and goals of the ‘traditional’ mussar va’adim of the Mussar Movement.

The entire translation is available here.  Comments are welcome.