Moshe Leib’s Upsherin

June 17th, 2013


Last week, we celebrated Moshe Leib’s Upsherin. It was a beautiful event at the Young Israel. Here is what was said at it:

Hello everybody. Welcome to Moshe Leib’s Upsherin party.

I will start by addressing a technical point that some of you may be wondering about, which is: Why is Moshe’s hair already cut? And further, why are we not cutting his hair today at his Upsherin Party?

Today is Rosh Chodesh – the head of the month. There are some special customs associated with Rosh Chodesh in the Shulchan Aruch – the code of Jewish law:

Among them are:
- We do not fast
- We try to eat a little more than usual
- Women, specifically and customarily do not engage in certain household chores
- We do not cut our nail
- And finally, and most relevant to today, we do not cut hair.

As far as I understand, due to the specialness of the day, we don’t want to use it for doing mundane things like grooming ourselves and so it is a custom, that even for an upsherin, we do not cut hair on Rosh Chodesh.

So, on the head of this month, we will leave Moshe’s head alone.

For this reason, we already cut his hair on his actual birthday, last Monday, which we will show a video of shortly.

Many of you were at Yair’s upsherin 2 years ago. You might remember that the theme of what I spoke about had to do with refinement of speech, since we felt that topic was well suited.

For Moshe Leib, I think a more appropriate topic is humility (which incidentally also relates to speech) As some of you may have noticed, the first two letters of Moshe Leib’s name spell “Mal”, which relates to a teaching of Ba’al Shem Tov (as brought down by Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh) where he expounds the word “Chashmal” (from Yechezkel’s chariot). There, he talks about the how the word “Mal” can refer to circumcision (like Milah) as well as speech. The circumcision here relates to separating the good from the bad. The speaking refers to speaking about sweet things. Maybe, it could be referring to a sort-of well-refined form of speech, where only the sweet things come out, after carefully choosing the good from the bad.

We see in Moshe that he is very bright and seems to think things through very well. Sometimes he is reserved in his speech, but when does speak he is very deliberate and certainly very sweet. And certainly appears to be quite humble.

To make this connection of humility in children, I will now read from an article that I found on that speaks about humility in relation to another Moshe – Moshe Rabenu:

Of all the things we want for our children, do we want our children to be humble?

Most of us would hesitate to answer yes, because we tend to equate humility with weakness.

Imagine being told that the humblest man in the world is coming over to visit you. You would expect him to knock very quietly on the door, entering with his head bowed, meekly shuffling to the chair in the corner of the room.

Yet the Torah says that Moses was the humblest man that ever lived. Moses! The one who stood up to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” The one who raised his staff to split the sea. The one who led the nation to victory in war. Could you imagine Moses walking into our home? You’d be bowled over by his greatness! But he was still humble.

A humble person is not someone who thinks he’s nothing. A humble person knows he’s something, but he recognizes God as the source of his greatness. Thinking one is something without recognizing God as the source leads to arrogance. And who would want to raise arrogant children?

We want to teach our children that they are special, talented, skilled, and everything wonderful, but we also want to teach them that all these things are a gift from God.

They should take pleasure in their accomplishments, not pride. They are choosing to use the gifts that God gave them for good.

Your son could have used his physical agility and strength to be a bully in the schoolyard, but instead chose to participate and excel in sports. Your daughter’s academic accomplishments means she used the brain that God gave her for something good. Both children should take great pleasure in that. They are cashing the check that God wrote and gave to them.

Since the humble person recognizes his inner strengths, he has the confidence to recognize greatness in others.

My Bracha for you, Moshe Leib, is that you be able to continue to discern and use deliberateness in speech, and recognize your inner strengths and grow.

One more thing I’d like to speak about is that about 3 years ago, we went to a shiur by Rav Ginsbugh – the Rav who I quoted about speaking about “Mal”. We took Moshe Leib with us and at that time he was one month old. After the shiur, I wrote about in my blog.

Rifka commented, 3 years ago, on the blog post: “i hope that Moshe Leib will read the blog one day and I can tell him that he was there rocking the whole time”

The shiur was all about the number “137″. I would love to talk about about the shiur itself and the amazing connections in the Torah that have to do with this number, but that is not for now. But there is one association that Rifka noticed – namely that the address of this shul that we are in is 1137 or 1-137.

I am grateful that we have this shul to have this wonderful event and B’H we can have many more simchas here.

Mazal Tov Moshe Leib! L’Chaim

Going to Israel for the Chagim

June 17th, 2013

Baruch Hashem, we found a place to stay in Israel for the month of september, through the Chagim. We have been looking for a while and we just found what seems to be a very nice place. I have already booked it through and am planning to buy the plane tickets tomorrow.

We were in disbelief that we could really find a place that was in our price range and that could accomodate our family, and thank G-d, just like that, we found it!

It has been a very exciting Father’s Day, starting with building a remote controlled moon walker with my two older children, and finishing with this amazing news. We already have started planning our itinerary and whatnot.

Strangely, after all of this excitement, I started to feel all sorts fears and even a sort-of “sadness”, in the midst of this intense excitement and joy.

I actually remember feeling like this before the last time I went to Israel, and I remember that these feelings were finally assuaged when I ran into a friend, shortly after arriving.

Here is what I think is going on: For the past several months, we have been dreaming about going to Israel as a family. I have been thinking about all of the amazing and special memories I have from my four months spent there 8 years ago and all of the things that I want to show to my children.

Now, we have found a place and were looking around the google street view. I was filled with many of these amazing feelings and memories at the sites of certain things. However, what is there actually on the streets? It’s a city. There are pot holes, beat up guard rails, posters along metal fences that are peeling off, some chunks of concrete leftover from building projects, etc.

I looked on wikipedia about the neighborhood that we are staying in. It described the history and the pain and hardship that was experienced just a few generations ago so that there could be a Jewish community there now.

We were looking around for a nearby park for our children to visit while we are there, and the nearby playgrounds look alright from the google street view, but I wouldn’t say “amazing” – just alright. (I certainly appreciate that there is a park there, but I am picturing from my children’s perspective: “You took me 9000 miles from the parks in West Hartford to go to another park?”)

The point I am saying is: If you take away the fact that this is Eretz Yisroel and the fact that even walking four cubits (10 feet?) in this land is a special zechut, and the incredible fact that we Jews have the opportunity to visit and live in this holy place in our current era, then it is actually hard to justify our excitement over this visit. And after reading the history of this particular neighborhood, and outside of this perspective of the holiness of the land, it’s even can be hard to justify all of their efforts to build it up to what it is. (They are absolutely justified – I am just making a point, but I will clarify shortly, I hope. I really am so appreciative of previous generation’s efforts to build up the land of Israel and I am merely expressing a feeling, which I realize looks awkward when written. I really am getting to a point though…).

I was discussing with my wife that our children might not understand the preciousness of certain things. I said that if we take them on the underground kotel tours, they might miss the open miracle of the gigantic stones that make up the wall of the support for Temple Mount and they might see them as “just some stones”. I was perhaps expressing my own fear of being so desensitized from spirituality that I don’t recognize something so amazing, or the fact that it is right outside the place of the Kodesh HaKedoshim. What if my children ask why it is special there and I do not know the right words to answer? These are some of the fears. Maybe I am so involved in certain routines that I am desensitized. I am not sure, but these are the current fears.

In our initial planning, I have felt conflicted between the desire to fill our trip with activities and the other extreme – to just be in Israel, even if we are just hanging out at the park – to just be a part of that sort of life in Israel, and to not go on tours and things. I almost feel like if we endeavor to do certain things (like go on a tour of Masada), we could be missing the purpose of just being in Israel. But, then what is that purpose? Can it be described in words? Is it just a feeling? What is it that is so exciting about this trip that we’ve been dreaming about and finally seems like it is going to really happen?

So far, what I am saying seems a bit scattered, but I am getting to a point, I think…

I mentioned above that the last time I struggled with these sorts of feelings, 8 years ago, I felt assuaged when I bumped into an old friend who I had not seen in years on my first day in Israel. The reason why it was a special meeting is because I had actually intended to look him up. I had the specific idea that he was somebody who I know who happens to be in Israel at the time I was going, so maybe I would find some comfort in that I would be able to look up an old friend. I was amazed at what appeared to be an outright open miracle of running into this friend on my first day there, without having to look him up. More amazing was the fact that he actually lived a few hours away and just happened to be in Jerusalem on that day, and I haven’t seen him since then (to this day, for that matter). It was instant comfort on my first day, with no effort on my part. I just needed to show up in Israel and Hashem set up a situation where I would feel comforted. (Thank you Hashem!)

My experience in Israel from 8 years ago was filled with all sorts of “chance meetings” of people, being in the “right place at the right time”, and even opening books to the exact page that I intended. These things happened way more than probability would suggest and through these sorts of things I knew that I was in a holy place of open miracles. (Of course, we do not all *need* such miracles to recognize the kedusha of Eretz Yisroel, but where I was holding then, I think that I did need that sort of experience and it was just right for me. Thank you Hashem!)

Obviously, Jerusalem is not fully built yet (and may it be, speedily in our days!) And that fact is clearly reflected in the google street view that I described above. And, when you zoom out on the map and see all of those hostile nations around (and even within) Israel, it is possible to feel a sense of hopelessness. Here we are, the majority of the Jewish nation living in Israel (according to population records), and yet still we are waiting for the Temple to be rebuilt and Jerusalem fully built and no more war or threats and everybody thriving. And yet, if that was the case, it would be too easy. Instead, it’s a challenge to get there and it’s a challenge to live there (I’ve heard). But, when you look around there is all sorts of comforting things, like miracles taking place around you in a way that seems so much more intense than how it is outside of Israel. And it’s comforting, and we are reminded that the times of Moshiach are close.

Possibly the biggest miracle is what I just described in the last paragraph. Because, when you look at the google street view, you see stores and signs with hebrew writing and all attesting to the miracle that is the Jewish State of Israel in our time. And when you zoom out and see the hostility all around, yet there is real Jewish life and courage to continue to exist in the middle of that, that is an open miracle that anyone can experience. In that way, just “hanging out at the park” is actually something amazing and can be equally meaningful as a tour of Masada or some other thing people do in Israel. It really depends on the perspective (and that gets into the whole thing with the meraglim I suppose, but probably for another post).

It really is the “just being there” that is so special and worth any effort. It is not describable. I do remember, 8 years ago, struggling to try to write about and capture what was going on around me and within me. It’s the whole experience of reconnecting with who we really are as Jews and experiencing the land of Israel that Hashem has given to us, and the special opportunity of being able to travel there with greater ease than any generation before us has experienced. And just being open to miracles, especially when they are all around.

I am not yet sure what my official goal of this particular trip to Israel is going to be. Last time (8 years ago) I was single and going to a yeshiva for the first time. My goal was to “learn how to learn”. This time around, I want to impart something on my children, and I want to experience Israel together with my wife for the first time, but as for my personal goal, I am not sure. Now that I realize that this is actually happening, B”H, I consider finding a goal to be an important thing to do over the next couple weeks.

I hope that we are not just going to Israel to take from the spirituality that surrounds, but to actually bring something. We discussed maybe finding an opportunity to physically help build something, or to plant a tree or something. Ultimately, I want to something positive and impactful.

As much as I want to relive my amazing experiences in Israel from 8 years ago, I realize that trying to relive some previous experience doesn’t usually work out as expected. So, it is best to be open minded. I don’t know, but I will probably update here when I figured it out.

Either way, I will end this post noting that I am extremely excited about the prospect of bringing my family to Israel and visiting with friends and family there, as well as experiencing the kedusha all around with my family for the first time. I am excited to be in Israel for the high holidays and through Sukkot! Bezrat Hashem, it should go well and lead to new nice memories and a strengthened emuna and bitachon for all subsequent visits until we are living there and the whole Jewish nation is living there together.


December 12th, 2012

I had a really cool dream: I peeled a banana and was surprised that it had not one but three layers of skin. After getting past the skin I noticed it had interesting symbols, including an oval with a circle inside of it. I turned it around and saw hebrew letters on it. Among the letters was the word שך. In the dream I took to be referring to “speech” even though that’s not the correct spelling (actual spelling would be “סח”).

And the amazing interpretation by my wife: The three layers of banana are the three layers of kelipot that precede Atzilut (read about the four worlds here). The fruit of the banana then represents the world of Atzilut. The oval/circle symbol has to do with Helem v’Gilui (hidden and revealed-ness), emphasizing how things are revealed in the world of Atzilut. And the letters שך are actually part of the word חשך – darkness – however in a world where things are revealed the darkness is absent, hence an incomplete word for it.

Chanukah – A Lesson in Empowering Others

December 28th, 2011

On the fifth night of Chanukah this year, we had volunteered to go light the menorah at the nearby home for the elderly. We have been doing this for the past few years. Different families from the area go on different nights.

This year our night was on Motzie Shabbos. When Shabbos ended, we did a quick Havdallah and lit our own menorah. It so happened that the children weren’t feeling well and there was some decision-making over who would go and who would stay home with the children between my wife, a friend, and myself. We finally made up our minds and went to home for the elderly, however we left about 15 minutes late.

When we arrived, we found the room, adjacent to the lobby, where we typically light the menorah. There was nobody in it, however there was a menorah with five glowing Chanukah candles (plus the shamash). The person at the front desk explained that some of the residents had plans to go out to dinner with some of their children who had beed visiting so they didn’t want to wait and decided to light without us.

I was a little disappointed. I was somewhat excited at the thought of lighting with them and telling them stories about the fifth night of Chanukah and whatnot.

Later, my wife pointed something out to me (which she attributed to one of the Chabad Rebbeim, I think): When we light a candle, such as on a menorah, we hold the flame up to the candle that we want to light hoping that it will catch and continuing burning on it’s own. Similarly when it comes to helping another Jew, and igniting spiritual sparks, the goal is to empower them to be able to engage in Torah and Mitzvot without your assistance.

In the case of the people at the home for the elderly, whom we were going to help light the menorah, they actually didn’t need us and were empowered to light on their own. Their own Jewish sparks must have been ignited into powerful flames which we witnessed burning in the room adjacent to the lobby when we arrived. And that’s actually a reason to feel good about being late.

Siyum for Seder Nashim

September 13th, 2011


(The following is what I wrote to say at a Siyum for Seder Nashim. It was meant to be spoken and not necessarily to be read on a blog. I am posting it as-is. Please enjoy!)

Siyum on Seder Nashim

10 Elul 5771

Welcome to this Siyum on Seder Nashim. Bezrat Hashem we will all finish this final Mishna together, but first I will speak about the Seder of Nashim, and the final Masechta of Kiddushin.

I will start by mentioning that I started learning one Mishna-a-day several years ago. At that time I remember Rabbi Wolvovsky told us a story of the Ba’al Shem Tov that emphasized the importance of learning Mishnayot – something about how the word Mishna is the same letters as Neshama and the Mishnayot that we learn here in this world stay with the Neshama in the world to come. So it’s good to stock up on Mishnayot here. That was the premise anyway and it made me interested in learning Mishnayot, but still not with the impetus to get started.

Shortly after this Adam Gamzon’s grandfather passed away and Adam told me that he was learning Mishnayot in his Z’chus. I decided to do so as well and I learned Brachos – the first Mishna. Once I finished, I decided it wasn’t too bad – a few minutes a day to for some serious Torah learning. I decided to continue and here I am today, having a Siyum on the third order of Mishnayot – Kiddushin.

The message here is clear: Don’t look at the goal constantly. It’s overwhelming. Know your goals and just concentrate on what you need to do today to keep you on the path to accomplishing them. It really works!

And, as another note, I will mention that this is technically my second Siyum on Seder Mishnayot. When I opened up the copy of Kiddushin – the last Mishna in this Masechta, I noticed a bookmark in it and on the bookmark it was written: Eshka bas Yoel Leib Pinchas, my grandmother, Alav HaShalom – my mother’s mother. About 4 years ago when she passed away students of the Yeshiva Gedola of Bridgeport each learned part of the Seder and I myself learned Kiddishin at that time. So there is a special connection to my grandmother in that regard.

And one more thing I’ll mention is that B’H tomorrow the Speter’s are having a Bris – davening starts at 8:30am, right here at Young Israel of Hartford. And it’s a special custom for the father of the child to learn the night before the Bris – it helps keep destructive forces away as I understand. So, this Siyum and the words of Torah discussed this evening mark the start of that for Shaya, so everybody is also taking part of that.

Ok, so Seder Nashim. Reish Lakish expounds a Possuk from Yeshaya (33:6) that says: “The faith of your times will be the strength of your salvations, wisdom, and knowledge; fear of Hashem – that is [man's] treasure.” (“V’haya Emunas Itecha Chosen Yeshuos Chochmas V’Daas (yiras Hashem hi otzaro)” ) He expounds that each one of those words refers to an order of Mishnayot. Zeraim corresponds to “faith”, Moed to “your times”, Nashim to “strength”, Nezikin to “salvation”, Kodashim to “wisdom”, and Taharot to “knowledge”. (Shabbos 31a)

Just going through them very quickly, the first two I understand. The Seder of Zeraim talks about agricultural laws and tithing and Shemita, etc… These are things that ultimately depend on faith. We’re faithful that if we don’t plant in the seventh year there will still be enough to eat, for instance. And the fact that Moed corresponds to “your times” makes sense since that’s what Seder Moed is all about – the holidays – the different times of the year, etc. And then we get to Nashim, which is “strength”, “Chosen”.

What does Seder Nashim have to do with strength? Well, let’s consider the topics in Seder Nashim:
- Yevamos – Levirate Marraige
- Kesubos – Marriage Contracts
- Nedarim – Oaths and Vows
- Nazir – The specific vow to become a Nazir
- Sotah – A suspected adulteress
- Gittin – Divorce
- Kiddushin – Betrothal and lineage

Most of the topics have to do with marriage (even the topics of oaths and vows consider situations whereby a husband can annul the vows of his wife, etc). And the topic of marriage ultimately involves women and so it seems reasonable to say that the Seder is aptly called “Nashim”.

But what do these topics have to do with “strength”? Specifically, why is “strength” associated with topics concerning women. While we can’t speak for every individual it seems to be in general, the gender associated with “strength” is the male, whereas women are more often associated with concepts such as nurturing.

I was curious about this so I looked up other places where this word is used in the Tanach. We find this word “strength” – “Chosen” as it says in the Posuk – 5 times in the whole Tanach, 3 places in Nevi’im and 2 places in Kesuvim.

We have our verse:
1) “The faith of your times will be the *strength* of your salvations, wisdom, and knowledge; fear of Hashem – that is [man's] treasure.” (Yeshaya 33:6)

‎”וְהָיָה אֱמוּנַת עִתֶּיךָ חֹסֶן יְשׁוּעֹת חָכְמַת וָדָעַת יִרְאַת ה’ הִיא אוֹצָרוֹ.”

And the others:
2) In Yermiah, where he is apparently prophesying about the destruction of Jerusalem: “And I shall deliver all the *wealth* of this city, all [the fruits of] its labor, and all it’s precious items; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I shall deliver into the hand of their enemies and they will plunder them and take them away, and bring them to Babylonia.” (Yermiah 20:5)

“וְנָתַתִּי אֶת כָּל חֹסֶן הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְאֶת כָּל יְגִיעָהּ וְאֶת כָּל יְקָרָהּ וְאֵת כָּל אוֹצְרוֹת מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה אֶתֵּן בְּיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וּבְזָזוּם וּלְקָחוּם וֶהֱבִיאוּם בָּבֶלָה.”

There the word “Chosen” refers to wealth as opposed to “strength”. And it must be referring to something tangible (as opposed to strength) because it says “I will deliver”.

3) In Yechezkel, where he is talking about the sins of the land: “There is a conspiracy (Kesher) of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion that tears [its] prey; they have devoured souls, they have taken away [Jerusalem's] *treasure* and worth, they have increase her widow in her midst.” (Yechezkel 20:5)

“קֶשֶׁר נְבִיאֶיהָ בְּתוֹכָהּ כַּאֲרִי שׁוֹאֵג טֹרֵף טָרֶף נֶפֶשׁ אָכָלוּ חֹסֶן וִיקָר יִקָּחוּ אַלְמְנוֹתֶיהָ הִרְבּוּ בְתוֹכָהּ.”

Here, once again the word “Chosen” refers to “treasure” – not so much “strength”. Similarly, the verse seems to be talking about something tangible when it says “Chosen”.

The last two references are from Mishlei:

4) “The house of the righteous one is greatly *fortified*, but with the arrival of a wicked one it becomes sullied.” (Mishlei 15:6)

“בֵּית צַדִּיק חֹסֶן רָב וּבִתְבוּאַת רָשָׁע נֶעְכָּרֶת.”

Here the word “Chosen” means “fortified” – not “wealthy” or a “treasure”, but once again referring to strength.

5) And the last reference to “Chosen” is in the Possuk advising to “tend to your business and prepare for the future” (Artscroll): “For *strength* endures not forever. Does the crown [of wealth] last from generation to generation?”

“כִּי לֹא לְעוֹלָם חֹסֶן וְאִם נֵזֶר לְדוֹר דור [וָדוֹר׃]”

Once again, the word is used as “strength”, but also could potentially be referring to “wealth” it seems here.

We also find other conjugations in Possukim such as in Tehillim “Hashem, G-d of Legions, who is like You, *O Strong One*, God?, Your surrounding angels attest to Your faithfulness”

‪…”‬מִי כָמוֹךָ חֲסִין קהּ‪…”‬

So we have a similar word attesting to Hashem’s strength. In that verse we’re certainly not referring to Hashem as “wealthy” and hence we find another case where Chosen must mean “strong”.

It appears that the word Chosen has two distinct meanings with a same general idea for both.

In an Etymological dictionary based on the teachings of Rav Shimshon Rafeal Hirsch, it translates Chosen as a verb to “store strength; hold firmly” and then goes on to give two definitions:
1) storing strength
2) treasury, stored goods

So, at this point we have a much more complete picture of what this word “Chosen” means. And so we can say that Reish Lakish, in the Gemara, is saying that the Seder of Nashim is related to this word Chosen, which refers to either strength or wealth. And by strength we mean fortification or stored strength. Similarly by “wealth” we are referring to stored treasures.

We know that Seder Nashim deals primarily with marriage. Let’s look more close at each Masechta so that it will be clear:
- Yevamos – Deals with the situation of Levirate marriage where marriage is actually compulsory for the man
- Kesubos – Deals with the obligations a husband and wife have towards each other
- Nedarim – Discusses oaths and vows including the vows of a woman which her husband may revoke. Rambam writes that “The entire chapter of Nedarim refers to the vows of women”.
- Nazir – This follows Nedarim and among other things discusses the situation of a man revoking his wife’s vow of Nezirut
- Sotah – Discusses what a husband and wife do when the wife is suspected of adultry
- Gittin – Discuss how a marriage ends, C’vS
- Kiddushin – Methods of betrothal and who is fit to marry who and the resulting status of offspring from certain unions (i.e. lineage)

So, this dual concept of “stored strength” or “fortification” and “stored treasure” somehow relate to this concept of women and marriage.

Perhaps we can suggest that to her husband, a woman is to be described as “Chosen”. Meaning that to her husband a woman is a source of potential strength AND simultaneously she is the one who protects her husband’s wealth. Let’s take those ideas one-by-one.

In one of the Posukim from Mishlei it says the following:
“בֵּית צַדִּיק חֹסֶן רָב וּבִתְבוּאַת רָשָׁע נֶעְכָּרֶת.”

“The house of the righteous is greatly fortified, etc.”

It is known that in the language of the Talmud, one’s wife is known as one’s house. So, we can read the verse like:
“The WIFE of a righteous person is greatly Chosen” If we are referring to the “wife” of somebody as greatly Chosen we can say that the wife is either a great source of potential strength or that the wife is a great protector of her husband’s wealth. In the case of this Possuk, let’s read on.

The verse continues:
“but with the arrival of a wicked one it becomes damaged” – his household – himself become damaged.

Perhaps it’s a stretch, but if we consider this Rasha – “the wicked one” – to be the Yetzer Harah, then we are referring to this righteous person as somebody who merits to be married to someone who is a great “Chosen”. It seems fitting that here Chosen refers to the source of strength (and not wealth). His wife – his source strength and fortification will protect the household when the Yetzer Hara comes and damages it.

We know that a primary purpose of marriage is for one to “cleave to his wife” – to be complete. And it says in Pirke Avos: “Who is strong? One who controls his inculcation.” Perhaps by corresponding to Seder Nashim to this word “Chosen”, we are bringing out this concept that one’s wife serves as a potential strength against the Yetzer Hara and that a man who is married may have low points where “the Rasha comes in” – where he has a negative thought or in some way succumbs to his evil inclination, but as long as he is attached to his wife – his storehouse of strength – he’ll be alright. A wife is a store of strength against the Yetzer Hara.

So that’s a way to understand the “stored strength” definition. What about the definition of Chosen that means “stored treasure” or “wealth”?

Looking in the Gemara in Shabbos 31a, where the word Chosen is related to Seder Nashim, Rashi says the following:
לשון יורשין ועל ידי אשה נולדו יורשין

That “Chosen” is referring to successors and through the woman successors are born to him.

It seems that Rashi is saying that the woman helps store wealth for the man by providing him with children who will eventually inherit this wealth.

So this is referring to procreation.

Hence this term “Chosen” encompasses the two aspects of marriage:
1) Completing the person – as the woman provides fortification and potential strength to her husband
2) Procreation – as the women protects her husband’s wealth through their children


At this point we will, B’H complete the Mesechata The last Mishna of Kiddushin actually does not directly talk about marriage or lineage. Rather it is a continuation of the previous Mishna which was talking about Issur Yichud, and it ends off talking about professions.

Elul Meditation / Excercise

September 4th, 2011

So, it’s Elul. The King is in the field. Now what? Here’s something that I think anybody can do to get in the Elul frame of mind and I’m confident that anybody who does it will find it rewarding.

Phew, that’s some confidence. Tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll update this post.

So… this is the exercise, which is a sort of meditation, but really a very free-form thinking exercise, which as far as I understand is basically what meditation is (see Aryeh Kaplan’s Jewish Meditation).

I recommend doing this for a half-hour but you can do it for 10 minutes of 3 minutes or 3 hours. Just be sure to set a time for yourself and stick to it.

Go somewhere where you can think – maybe somewhere a little “uncomfortable”, specifically where you’re away from distractions. In the woods, or just in a room where you’re not distracted by other people or the internet or anything else.

And consider the three basic relationships that you have and the following things (I recommend reading this before the exercise so you’re not restricted to reading this stuff while your trying to just think. And feel free to arrange the structure however you see fit. This is just my recommendation and something that worked for me.):

Think about the relationship you have with yourself. How do you take care of your health? Do you get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise? Is there anything practical that you think you might be able to do differently in the coming year? (Take note of it, either mentally or with a pen-and-paper – whatever works for you)

Are you overly-harsh with yourself, not making time for things you truly enjoy? Or do you indulge in things excessively to the point that you see it as a concern? Find some balance between these things and once again take note of even just one practical thing you’d like to try in the coming year to remedy, if you see a need for such a remedy.

Also consider smiling more. Even if you already smile often, it doesn’t hurt to do more.

Now, think about your relationship with others. Do you appreciate your friends and family? Are you ever frustrated with loved ones? Consider taking time to meditate on your appreciation of them on a regular, even daily basis for just 3 minutes a day as a practical remedy for any issues you find in lack of feelings of appreciation that you know are really there.

Think about your relationship with your parents. If you communicate with them regularly, do you show them proper respect? Do you interrupt them when they speak? Do you call them enough? Simple respect – not necessarily agreeing with them, but just respecting them – should be a practical goal if you find any issue with this area.

Now think about how you keep commitments with others. Things like being on time and whatnot. Once again, note any practical solutions that you come up with. The idea is practical – meaning things that you can really conceivably do. The purpose of this exercise is not to leave feeling overwhelmed, but to have a clear goal in mind.

Finally, consider you relationship with the Creator. Do you love and fear G-d? Practically this would seem to translate to being careful to keep the Mitzvot in the best way possible at whatever your current level of observance is and a desire get better and better. That’s my understanding anyway. What does this mean to you? Think about it.

Other practical considerations regarding our relationship with G-d is when we daven to focus on what we’re saying. I learned and have found to be true, that by simply keeping a finger under the word that you’re reading from the Siddur, greatly improves concentration and pulls more of the body in the experience of davening (the eyes and the hand/finger). We need to remember when davening that we’re standing before a King. Think of simple practical things you can do in this regard.

And certainly learning Torah in a set time on a regular basis.

And that’s it. Ultimately the goal is that we know why we’re going into the new year. It’s definitely not to keep doing the same things. We need to always bring about some change for the better.

If at the end of this exercise you have a huge list and it’s overwhelming then take just one or two items from the list and see what you can devote to them in the coming year. The key is practical. The point is NOT to make some lofty goals that you can’t keep.

You should be able start whatever you’ve resolved today. If you can’t do it today, you’re probably not going to be able to do it next year, which starts in 20-something days from now. Small change leads to huge change, whereas huge change usually fails.

Chasiva v’Chasima Tova – May you be written and inscribed for Good!

Davening Late

August 31st, 2011

I asked my Rav (Rabbi Tzvi Fischer of the Portland Kolel) for a P’sak on Davening late – something that’s a bad habit for me and I want to ultimately change, but at least conform to Halacha while in the process of rectifying.

I want to write out what he said. Before I do, please understand the following things:

  1. This was his P’sak for me. Please ask your Rav/Rabbi what to do. If you do not have a Rav, go find one! I’m providing this here as a benefit for anybody interested in the Halachah.
  2. I am writing this out to best of my understanding of what I was instructed to do. I am not a rabbi. You’ll note I wrote everything below in the first-person, not saying what you should do, but rather what I should do.
  3. This is b’Dieved. We need to daven on time. I’m saying this as Mussar to myself and that it should be hopefully heeded by anybody reading this. Chazal clearly laid out the times when we are to daven. Check for the correct time to daven where you live.
  4. It is Halachah that we need to daven in the morning before engaging in other activities. Check with your rabbi as to what this entails, but please understand that it is VERY important to make davening in the morning consistently a priority and not to rely on a Heter. I can say personally that it’s very difficult for me, but I’ve heard a concept (in the name of Rabbi Abba Wagensburg) that working on your greatest challenges bring you to the greatest of heights in Torah and Judaism so I wish us to have strength, Bezrat Hashem, in overcoming our obstacles and reaching our goals.

That said, here is what I understand:

  • I need to say the Shema before Z’man Kria Shema and say the Shemona Esrai before Z’man Tefillah and it is better make the correct times, even if it means davening quickly, than to daven late but potentially more drawn out.
  • If I miss Z’man Kria Shema, but still have time before Z’man Tefillah, I should still daven the regular Seder of Davening, including Birchas Kria Shema and all.
  • If I miss Z’man Tefillah but still have time before Chatzos, I should do a regular seder of davening, BUT EXCLUDE the Brachos of Kria Shema
  • If I miss Chatzos I should either put on Talis/Tefillin and just say the Shema, or put on Talis/Tefillin and daven Mincha. I would say two Shemona Esrai’s at Mincha “if [I] didn’t have a chance to daven”.
  • On Shabbos morning, where my Tzibor davens late, I should daven Shacharis at home, make Kiddush and eat, and then go to Shul for Krias HaTorah and Mussaf.

Scattered Thoughts on the Murder of Leiby Kletzky

July 13th, 2011

We recently experienced the horrifying news that a Jewish boy from Brooklyn – Leibby Kletzky, A’hS was kidnapped and murdered, R”L. After he was was reported missing, over 7000 Jews came to Brooklyn to search. Jews came on busses from all over, some even leaving in the middle of vacationing in the Catskill Mountains specifically to come back and take part in the search. From what I read, the police and Hatzolah passed out maps with grids and instructed people to search certain areas for clues. The overwhelming response from the Jewish community (and even some non-Jewish friends including a group of Pakistanis) made for an equally overwhelming response from the NYPD and the FBI.

For those who did not make it out to search – myself included, we turned to twitter for up-to-date news and otherwise said Tehillim and prayed for Leiby’s wellbeing. One twitter user even advised everybody to stop refreshing their twitter feed every second and say some Tehillim instead. The Chovetz Chaim Heritage Foundation had an Emergency Tehillim Conference call which I tried several times, but could not get through because of the overwhelming response.

Basically, there was a major effort going on throughout the Jewish community in terms of physical action and prayer, and a sense of unity that some twitter users even described as “beautiful” – that the entire Jewish community (at least those who heard the news) were reacting to this as if Leiby was our own child.

And seeing one post after another, tagged #bpboy, and seeing the pictures of the thousands and thousands scouring the streets, hearing about the Yeshiva bochurim who went to sleep without pillows that night and the many who vowed to not sleep at all until Leibby is found, and all of the Tehillim that was said, we can safely say that the Jewish unity was there.

And what happened? The police found Leiby’s body and the caught the person who did the horrible act of kidnapping and murdering this child. Where did the prayers go?

And they found him using surveillance cameras, so it’s hard to say if the thousands who volunteered their time searching the streets actually led to even finding the suspect. Even more disturbing is that this murderer told the police that the reason that he did what he did is because he heard about the search going on and “panicked”. Which implies that if the efforts to find Leiby had been quieter, he may have actually not murdered. All of this amazing positive effort – people coming from all over devoting themselves to nothing but finding this boy – What was the point of all this effort?

The intention of the kidnapper is not clear, but based on the information that we have available to us it feels like our efforts in Jewish Unity did not help and may have even acted against our hopes of this boy coming back alive and well.

Further, we are taught that a reason we are in exile and Moshiach has not taken us out of this mess is due to baseless hatred and that when we express unity, and love of a fellow Jew – in this case the Kletzky family – we reverse the process of exile. Why didn’t all this Jewish Unity open the door for Blessings to come in and this boy to be miraculously saved from harm?

Another incident comes to mind. Not too long ago, there was a Jew by the name of Martin Grossman who was on deathrow. He was accused of committing murder many many years earlier while under the influence of drugs, and at that time was sentenced to death. The governor of Florida wanted to make a point that he’s “tough” on the death penalty in the hope of gaining respect in his run for senate and decided to execute this Jewish man. Shortly before all of this however, Martin Grossman started the process of Teshuvah, and became what we would describe as a real “Ba’al Teshuva”. When it was announced that he was going to be executed two things happened: A major legal campaign commenced with the intention of getting him another trial. And a major Tehillim campaign also commenced with the intention of influencing the Heavenly Court. There was a worldwide support for Martin Grossman, and even the critics who generally support the death penalty were calling, emailing, writing, and praying, that Martin be spared. There was a definite sense of Jewish Unity here. And what happened? The governor sent everybody who had been emailing for days an response a day before the sentence basically telling everybody that their efforts were pointless. The next day they executed Martin, Michoel Yechiel ben Avrohom A”H:

The Chabad Shaliach to Jacksonville Florida, Rabbi Nachum Kurinsky was with Martin.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt remorse to the victim’s family,” Grossman said. I fully regret everything that happened that night, everything that was done, whether I remember everything or not, I accept responsibility.”

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Martin Grossman then began to recite Shema Yisroel with “deep concentration” – moving Rabbi Kurinsky to tears.

When he finished Shema, he paused, and his last two words were “Ahavas Yisroel”.


It seems like once again we had a case of strong Jewish unity and no positive effect in this world, except for the momentary feeling like something good is really going to come from this.

While we are all still in shock and horror of what happened to Leibby Kletzky and we have nothing that can excuse or explain the horrible event, we can perhaps make a commitment to continue this level of unity.

As it says in Pirkei Avos that a love that is based on something is not everlasting, but a love that’s not based on anything is everlasting. While we are very good at uniting on a common issue, we also have many issues that we disagree on, and while it seems to be OK to disagree, if this causes us to feel any less love for our fellow Jews than we felt when the search was on for this boy, then we have work to do.

It seems the murderer did not expect such a major response from the Jews around him and abroad, and when he saw the response that’s when he “panicked”. I think if we were living a lifestyle of real baseless love for one-another, this Rasha would have noticed that there is no way he could get away with this and maybe would have thought twice.

While nobody is to blame for the murder except for the murderer, I think this is time to introspect and find out how good we are at really loving every Jew – even and especially somebody who you completely disagree with. It is easy to unite when we are searching a missing boy, but it’s not so easy to unite when nothing bad is happening and you happen to disagree with somebody’s political views.

That said, I don’t really know what else to take from this. In the 30 hours since Leibby went missing, thousands of Jews adopted Leiby in their hearts as if he was their own child and after hearing this morning’s news we feel the loss and pain as if we’re the parents. And while no amount of empathy can compare to what Leiby’s parents must feel, it is still difficult to bare.

What makes this most tragic is the feeling of abandonment that all of our collective efforts did not work. But we are all still alive today and reading this and able to do our job to keep on bettering ourselves and the world around us through the performance of Mitzvot and really working hard on trying to love everybody with the hope that the Moshiach will come and we will be reunited with Leiby and all others who were taken from us for no apparent reason.

I think, and have come to thought this with the help of talking to my wife, that this murderer tried to incriminate all of us when he said that he panicked due to the search efforts. No normal person would panic and then do such a horrible thing and I think we need to remember that our efforts, whether you were out searching all night, or just said a small prayer and went to sleep, are NOT in vein and that Hashem DOES hear us even now as we feel horrible and dejected. And that we need to stay hopeful that even, and especially right now and pull together our inner strength to remember that our efforts mean something and we should never ever doubt that.

We see from this how the world has crazy people in it who do horrible things, but we also see from the huge response how much good there really is in the world – that there are thousands and thousands of us who really care about a child who we’ve never met like he’s our own, and there is this one sicko who murdered. And while we were incapable of stopping him from murdering, he’s incapable of stopping us from continuing to be good and appreciate those who are in our lives and continuing to love.

And of course, a clear thing that comes from this and I definitely need to write and hope to spread is: Parents, please warn your children that if anybody ever asks them to go with them somewhere, even a trusted family friend but without explicit instructions from a parent, that they should scream and yell until somebody comes and helps them. Please warn them now, or today when you see them. Do not put this off even if you live in a safe neighborhood.

Search Word Frequency in Tanach

November 3rd, 2010

There is a site that lets you search for any word in Tanach and it will return the number of occurrences throughout the whole Tanach. It will also show you the Posukim.

Here are some interesting searches.

1) אהבה has a Gematria of 13 and also appears 13 times in the whole Tanach. The word חבר also appears 13 times in the whole Tanach. The word אחד, which also has Gematria of 13 appears exactly 400 times in the Tanach.

What’s it mean? Well there is a connection between friendship, love, and oneness. What about the 400 times that אחד is found? Any suggestions?

2) The word שירה only appears once in Tehillim (link). I would have expected it to appear much more.

3) מרכבה is found four times in the whole Tanach (none of which are in Yechezkel). The four letters in Hashem’s name… the four animals on the Merkava… lots of relation to four.

4) הַלָּזֶה is found three times in the whole Tanach (link). Rabbi Wagensberg discusses this word in great detail in Parshas Chayei Sarah, where Rivkah asks the Eved (after seeing Yitzchak in the field for the first time) מִי הָאִישׁ הַלָּזֶה. He explains that she answered her own question. “Who is this man?” The answer is: הַלָּזֶה He explains that HaLaZeh is an allusion to Yitzchak who was resurrected at the age of 37 (לז) after the Akeida and explains the special association with the two Hei’s.

I could spend hours looking things up. I think it’s amazing how accessible this is and finding secrets in the numbers of the Torah is a nice reminder that Hashem is One. It is important to try to expound on things you find so they leave more of an impression than “wow”, but even if that’s all you feel you have time for, I suggest you go to that website and look up a few words up that you’re interested in and comment here with what you find. (I’m assuming that somebody will read this.)


September 28th, 2010

Just reading the Parsha without commentary I find so many new interesting things in Bereishis every year.

There was somebody named Lemech who accidentally killed Kain and his own son Tuval-Kain. (ok I looked in Rashi to find that out). He says that if Kain who intentionally killed suffered vengeance at seven generations then he would suffer at seventy seven for unintentionally killing. Later it says the days of his life were seven hundred an seventy seven.

I have many questions about all that including what Lemech’s reasoning must have been and how long is a generation and of course am interested in the 7 77 777 thing.

777=7×111 = 3x7x37

3x7x37 … That’s particularly interesting.


Some things to think about over the three day Yom Tov…