Monthly Archives: October 2011

Learn one of seforim that inspired R Yisrael Salanter starting Nov 6th in Chicago

New chaburah/group learning starting Nov 6th. Come learn the sefer Tomer Devorah with Rabbi Etan Ehrenfeld (from the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel) and discover how to emulate the traits of Hashem!
First published in 1588, Tomer Devorah is a classic kabbalistic and mussar sefer. In 1858 R Yisrael Salanter republished it to include the first appearance of his, now famous, Iggeres HaMussar.
Starting next Sunday, Nov 6, 8PM-9PM at Congregation KINS in West Rogers Park, Chicago. Please feel free to email me for details:

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks on how to daven

On Wednesday, October 26th the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks spoke in Chicago at Congregation K.I.N.S.  A link to the audio and a transcript can be found here.

Here’s an amazing story he told over (from the transcript): 

I don’t know if you know this, the Rebbe before he became the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ran the publishing house of Chabad, Kehot. He always used to typography and use signals that would tell the apprentice how to make a change.  Somebody had written him a letter, “I need the Rebbe’s help. I’m depressed, I’m miserable, I find life has no meaning.  I pray and it doesn’t affect me, I do mitzvos and I don’t feel change – I need the Rebbe’s help.”   And the Rebbe gave him the most brilliant reply and he did not use a single word.  You know what he did?  He just ringed the first word in every sentence.  What was the first word?  I.  If all that matters to you is the “I,” you will never find happiness.  And that, I discovered, is the secret of Kohelet’s unhappiness.  Remember what he says?  Asiti, kaniti, baniti li, asafti li.  Everything – I built for myself, I bought for myself, I gathered for myself.  There is no book in the whole of Tanach which uses the first person singular that often.  And if you use the first person singular, if all that matters is I, you will never be happy.  And what happened in our generation?  I really intend no disrespect to the memory of a wonderful man, Steve Jobs.  He was a wonderful man.  Be we are the 1—generation.  We have the iPad, the iPhone, the iTunes, the iPlayer, ich veis nisht, everything is I I I.  No  wonder  we’re miserable.   And the result is that we have to use davening, to thank Gd for what we have and to be aware of something bigger than ourselves.

This hit me hard.  Just this morning during “Shema Koleinu” I know that I threw in some “I’s” like, “I want to be closer to you, Hashem.”  Instead I should have said, “Please Hashem, let me be closer to you.”

For a personal post from someone who attended the event, see this.

As heard on parshas Bereishis (Genesis) from Rav Moshe Weinberger

This past Shabbos Bereishis I was at Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY (well, actually I was there starting on Hoshannah Rabbah and just got back very early Thursday morning) and wanted to share a small part of what  remember from Rav Moshe Weinberger’s Shabbos drasha.  I take all responsibility for any mistakes and lack of fully explaining any ideas given over by Rav Weinberger.

Rav Weinberger started off mentioning that from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hoshannah Rabbah we have 51 days.  He then quoted the 4th pasuk from the 4th perek of Bereishis:

4. And Abel he too brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering.
ד וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם-הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ, וּמֵחֶלְבֵהֶן; וַיִּשַׁע יְהוָה, אֶל-הֶבֶל וְאֶל-מִנְחָתוֹ.

The pasuk says “Hevel haivee gam hu” to teach us that Hevel didn’t just bring his karbon, but he brought gam hu “also him[self]”, giving 100% of who he was.
If you give someone a present, just to be yotzei by giving a gift,  it’s isn’t as personal and meaningful as really putting thought i, ento giving someone a present, thereby giving part of yourself to another person.  The greatness of Hevel was that he gave himself over to Hakodesh Baruch Hu.  Much in the same way that Avraham intended for Yitzchak to be a karbon and, in fact, Chazal teach that even it was as if Yitzchak himself became the karbon.

Rav Weinberger then said he had a machshava based on the 1st pasuk in the 2nd perek of Koheles:
1.    I said to myself, “Come now, I will mix [wine] with joy and experience pleasure”; and behold, this too was vanity.
א אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי, לְכָה-נָּא אֲנַסְּכָה בְשִׂמְחָה וּרְאֵה בְטוֹב; וְהִנֵּה גַם-הוּא, הָבֶל.

Rav Weinberger noted that again we have almost the same loshon of gam hu havel as in the pasuk in Bereishis.  If I recall correctly, we can replace “havel” with “Hevel“, and see again that we have to give of ourselves when severing Hashem. with joy and pleasure.

He concluded by saying that a person can spend those 51 days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Hoshannah Rabbah going those the actions offering up karbonos of Selichos, mikvah, teshuva, davening, mussaf, al chaits, living in the sukkah, saying hallel, shaking our lulavim and esrogim, and performing hoshannos, but if we are not prepared to fully give ourselves, “gam hu“, then it’s as if we aregive a present in a haft-hearted way and not fully giving a karbon to Hashem in the most beautiful way possible.  We each have to give of ourselves to Hashem.  That’s what he wants from us.

Your Hulu is more treif than my Starbuck’s iced latte

This isn’t a rant. Those who know which time zone I am was in for the first days, however, will probably get what I am saying.
One of the messages within the Arba Minim is that of achdus, coming together for the sake of a mitzvah, and realizing that each element (or person) is important to Knesses Yisrael.
So, if someone let’s their kids watch ANYTHING on Hulu, but gives a guy who gets an iced latte after minyan at Stop&Shop a “shmooze” about cholov Yisrael then it’s really no surprise why we are still waiting for Moshiach.
Sent via Blackberry by AT&T

The Rav and the Rebbe

Published in Song of Teshuva,  a commentary on Rav Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah by Rav Moshe Weinberger and adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.

Rav Weinberger tells over the following story (pages 134-135):

When Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik went to a farbregen (a Chassidic gathering) on the occasion of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s eightieth birthday, he was very impressed by the Rebbe’s brilliance and erudition.  But on the the way home, Rav Soloveitchik said that there was one thing with which he did not agreee.  When he offered the Rebbe a l’chaim (a toast), the Rebbe said, “Now the descendants of R. Chaim Volozhiner and the family of the Baal HaTanya have come together.”  Rav Soloveitch said that this was not true.  They had come together earlier, when Hitler had put the Chassid and the misnaged (the opponent of Chassidism) together in the same oven.  That was when we realized that there is no difference between one Jew and another.

It should not take someone who hates and persecutes the Jewish people to remind us that there is no difference between Jews on the level of the soul.  We must appreciate that the sould of every Jew is inseparable from the Congregation of Israel.”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Rav Frand on the how to disagree and the paradigm of unity

In Rav Frand’s Teshuva drasha for this year (recorded live in Los Angeles on the first night of Selichos and available for purchase here), he discussed the need for unity on Yom Kippur and gave over an amazing story about Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld 

and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kookwho both had very different ways of viewing both the state of Israel (at the time called Palestine), the Jews who lived there, and secular education.

Rav Frand said:

When Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld went to the little communities, the little kubutzim up in the north, where they [the residents] ate chazair treif, they went together to bring people back to Yiddishkeit.  Baalei Machloches- they held each other were wrong, but they worked together.  They disagreed without being disagreeable and we have not learned to do that.  When we disagree, you’re invalid, not entitled to your opinion.  Their vehement machloches never devolved in animosity.


You know, Rav Kook and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld were once invited to a bris.  Rav Yosef Chaim was to be the mohel and Rav Kook was supposed to be the zandek and they got to the shul at the same time.  Rav Yosef Chaim insisted that Rav Kook go in first, because he was a cohen.  Rav Kook insisted that Rav Yosef Chaim should go in, because he was a bigger person.  And they stood at the door frozen, they wouldn’t go until Rav Kook noticed that it was a double door and the left portion of the door was locked.  He reached in beside and pulled down the thing and they opened both doors simultaneously and they went in together.  That’s the paradigm [to how we should behave].

The entire shiur, Teshuva 2011 – Conflict Resolution: Within Our Community and Within Ourselves, is available for purchase and downloading on the Yad Yechiel website.

Any inaccuracies in this transcription are mine.  This is posted in zechus of a refuah shelayma for Reuven ben Tova Chaya and Miriam Orit bas Devorah.