Category Archives: Middos

Taking it to the next level

Imagine being part of a community with over 490 members, working on a specific middah every two week.  Wait, it gets better.  Every week you get a fantastic reading on that middah every week and excellent thought provoking questions and exercises to make that middah come alive.  Tempted?
If you are growth oriented, you might be.

There’s such a place and you can find it at  Madrega is the brainchild of Modya Silver and if you are not familiar with the website/community, it’s worth a look.  Currently they are finishing up the middah or “courage”.  I don’t comment there, as much as I, but I attempt to check the site weekly and personally I’ve grown in my own development over the past two years since I joined.  I’m not getting paid to write this, but if you’d like an excellent way to work online with others on a middah, please check out

For a Q & A with Modya Silver, click here.

Reb Moshe and the broken tape recorder

Royalty free graphic from here

I recently listened to a shiur by Rav Weinberger that was given to a group of women in Waterbury, CT.  I think the content, messages, and stories (the “jukim” story, the “Lost Horse”, and the “I know the Shephard” story) are similar to a shiur from 2008 posted by Dixie Yid.  The shiur, titled “Chinuch & Chanukah: Chinuch with a Heart” actually starts about 50 seconds into the recording and is available here.  The shiur revolves around the difference between “teaching” and “giving over” Torah. 

Rav Weinberger tells mentions an important article on chinuch that was published in Hakirah, The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought by Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried.  The article, titled, Is There a Disconnect between Torah Learning and Torah Living?  And If So, How Can We Connect Them? A Focus on Middos is available for reading or downloading here.

What follows in my transcription of Rav Weinberger telling over a story that was included in the above mentioned article.  Any mistakes in writing down Rav Weinberger’s words are mine.

Some years ago, in Rav Reuven Feinstein’s yeshiva, there were two boys who had an argument.  What happened?  Let’s call them Reuven and Shimon.  Revuen lent his tape recorder to Shimon and Shimon dropped the tape record and it broke.  And they were arguing.  Revuen said, “I lent you the tape recorder and you broke it.  You have to get me a new one.”

Shimon says, “It wasn’t my fault, it was an accident.”

And they were arguing and decided that they would go to the Rosh Yeshiva, which is a good thing.  They went to Reb Reuven Feinstein, they went to the Rosh Yeshiva to ask him what’s the halacha then.  This is what happened.  Rav Reuven Feinstein was absolutly astonished by the question.  Not with nachas, he was astonished.  He said, “You’re learning all year since September, your learning the gemara.  Everyday you have charts on the blackboard.   You’re learning the gemara “Bava Metzia” that teaches that when someone borrows something he’s responsible when it breaks.  If you borrow something you’re responsible.”  Rav Reuven was so distrubed by this.  He couldn’t understand how’s it possible that the boy, how could he not know that? That’s all they’re learning and they’re getting 100s on their tests. שואל חייב באונסין , it’s a gemara.  It’s all over the gemara.  If you borrow, you’re chai’ev (responsible).

So, he was so upset, Rav Reuven went to his father.  He went to Reb Moshe, Zecher Tzaddik V’Kodesh L’Vracha.  He went to Reb Moshe and he asked, “How can it be that the boys did not know that?”

So, Reb Moshe said, “Because what they’ve seen in their lives has no relationship to what they’re learning in yeshiva.  It’s completely irrelevant.  They do not see their parents living the lives that they learn in the seforim, nor do they see it so clearly in the yeshiva.”  That’s what Reb Moshe said.

They would never dream of making a connection between what they learned all year and how to practically live.  It might have been taught, but it wasn’t given over.

Tomer Devorah shiur #3 now online and no shiur this Sunday

The third shiur from the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago’s Tomer Devorah chabura is now online here.  That’r right.  If you are not working the day after Thanksgiving go ahead and download it or stream it.  It’s titled “Noseh Avon-Give people time to change” and what R Etan Ehrenfeld ties in from Rabbanu Yonah changed much of how I approach my own middos and avodah.  Remember, the chabura will not be meeting this Sunday, as R Ehrenfeld is out of town.

Tomer Devorah shiur #2 now online

The second shiur from the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago’s Tomer Devorah chabura was just posted online, here. The shiur, “Mi Kel Kamocha, Patience and Anger“, discusses the first middah.  Rabbi Etan Ehrenfeld touches on the importance how Hashem is always patient with us and says over in important teaching from Rav Dessler zt”l.  Take a listen and if you’re in Chicago, come to Congregation KINS this Sunday and join us from 8pm-9pm!

A signature story about Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l

The following story about Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l is from the hesped given at by Rabbi Aryeh Cohen at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach.  Any mistakes in the transcription are my own.  The entire emotional and personal hesped is available at

I’ll never forget.  One day I walked in to speak to him in his house.  He was sitting at his table, where he often was, and he has a pile this high, probably five hundred pieces of paper.  And they were letters to thank those who came to the Mir Yeshiva dinner for coming and helping out, whatever tzedaka.  And he was sitting there signing every single one personally.  Every single one, “Nosson Tzvi Finkel”.  Every one personally.  And when I tell you that each one took anywhere between thirty seconds and a minute, it’s no exaggeration.  It was very hard for him with his Parkinson’s and his arms flying to just, it was the way he would write, so until he got his pen down, once he got his pen down he could start, so he would be able to slide and finish that particular line.  But, each line took a long time for him to start, sometimes ten, twenty, thirty seconds.  Never heard of computer images, of a stamp?  Your sending out a mass letter of five hundred letters, maybe more, that was one pile.  There might have been more piles.  But, the Rosh Yeshiva understood that the chizuk, the inspiration, that each individual gets to have a little bit of a signature of the Rosh Yeshiva, to feel that kesher to the Rosh Yeshiva.  I’ll tell you, if you talk to anyone who learned in the Mir, they will tell you what they loved most was that kesher to the Rosh Yeshiva.

Also, Dixie Yid transcribed Rav Weinberger’s Shabbos drasha this past week that also contained several beautiful stories about Rav Nosson Tzvi and also describes a brief meeting Rav Weinberger had with him…well worth reading.

2nd yahrzeit of my father a"h

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris a”h, Avraham ben Zorach. While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

It’s funny how the mind works. A few months ago when R.E.M. broke up I had a flashback to my sophomore year in high school. It was a Thursday night in the fall of 1985 and my father was driving me from Wichita, KS to Kansas City- a three our drive. It must had been fairly late at night, because we were listening to Larry King’s talk show and he had Michael Stipe (lead singer from R.E.M) on as a guest and there were tons of calls to him about the state of college music.  My dad thought it was cool that “my music” was being talked about on the radio.  That wasn’t the cool part.  The really cool part was that my dad was driving me all the way to Kansas City, so that I could catch an Amtrack train to St. Louis to attend an NCSY shabbaton (youth group retreat weekend).  He drove me and then drove straight back home.

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris, Avraham ben Zorach.  While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l taught the world that it is giving that leads to love, not love that leads to giving.  Meaning, that the love we have for another is a natural outcome of our giving to another, of the deeds we perform.  Deeds that come from giving, like driving me three hours away to catch a train. 

Tomer Devorah shiur #1 now online

Rabbi Etan Ehrenfeld

The first shiur from the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago’s Tomer Devorah chabura was just posted online, here.  The shiur, “V’halachta B’drachav”, is based on the the Ramak’s intoduction to the sefer and Rabbi Etan Ehrenfeld brings in an article from the Rav and Sefer HaMitzvos in helping to understand the how we can be similar to our Creator.  It’s worth a listen and is a great way to prepare for this Sunday’s class at Congregation KINS from 8pm-9pm!

Am I a shadow?

האדם ראוי שיתדמה לקונו ואז יהיה בםוד הצורה העליונה צלם

It is proper for man to imitate his Creator, resembling Him in both likeness and image according to the secret of the Supernal Form.

I believe this is not an accurate translation of the words, and is not a Jewish translation on a conceptual level. The root of the word “tzelem” is “tzeil,” which means shadow. A shadow reveals the contours of an object in an indirect way,