Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Two-Way Street

We know that the nesiim were held responsible for waiting too long to donate to the Mishkan. At first blush one might say that they did a great thing by not overwhelming the people with their gifts. By not giving anything until the end, if somebody had a dollar they felt that the dollar counted. In most campaigns today, if you’re on the low end of the campaign, its hard to believe that it makes any difference if you give or not. What was wrong with what the nesiim did?

When the Vilna Gaon was once asked why he pushed himself to learn twenty hours a day, he responded, “If I learn twenty hours a day then the members of the Rabbinical Court of Vilna will learn sixteen hours a day. If they learn sixteen hours, then the Rabbis of the different congregations will learn twelve hours a day. If the Rabbis learn twelve hours a day, then the Rabbis in the villages will learn ten hours a day. If the village rabbis learn ten hours a day then the ballebattim will learn five hours a day. If I were to learn only fifteen hours a day, we would consider ourselves fortunate if the ballebattim would learn half an hour a day.”

Both philosophically and practically, there is a concept that the generation as a whole and every community respectively represents an organic configuration as if it were a whole person. Looking at Klal Yisroel as a whole, there is the tzadik hador, the Moshe Rabeinu of the generation, or the nassi as there were in many generations. The rest of Klal Yisroel represents different parts of that configuration. Some represent the ears of Klal Yisroel, those who are able to hear the heartbeat of the nation, where things are going, the necessity to respond to certain things. There are the eyes; there is the heart of the nation, the passion of Klal Yisroel. Some represent the support of Klal Yisroel, those who can contribute the money to sustain the whole structure. They are referred to as the legs or the thighs of Klal Yisroel. There are the people who are the people of action, and there are those whose primary contribution is in the realm of chessed, the arms of Klal Yisroel. This is all true both on a national level and as individual communities as well.

The relationship between the head and the body goes in both directions. The indiscreet thoughts of the head of Klal Yisroel or of a community ripple down through the “personhood” of its entirety. For example, when those thoughts reach the toes, the less exalted end of the spectrum, they have become more tangible than mere thoughts; they have become an impulse. If a leader is less than vigilant and indulged in even slightly ignoble thoughts, the impulse that he generates could result in action. The nation or community may, in fact, act out. Conversely, if a community is involved in actions which are not appropriate, when it ripples upward they become the kinds of things that torture the upper-end of the spectrum. Even though the leaders and heads are not given to action because of the deeds of the people, they will still find themselves anguishing over an inner struggle. This struggle may begin with the fact that they’ve allowed things to happen in their radius of influence, those very kinds of things that when they begin to evolve through the rest of the community, they finally end up tearing at the integrity of the leader. It’s a two-way street.

In a certain sense, what the Gaon of Vilna was saying is that his dedication to and his immersion in Torah has that kind of a ripple effect. Commensurate with the intensity of his commitment and discipline, will have a huge impact as to the commitment and discipline of the rest of Klal Yisroel. It commands a certain commitment on the parts of others, both in terms of quality and quantity. He found himself responsible for it, the locomotive. He had to put in all the thrust he could to get the caboose to start rolling.

Had the princes given upfront when it came time to contribute, their eagerness, their excitement, their purity of their unselfish disposition in giving, their yearning in giving would have been reflected in the way other people would have given both in quality and quantity. They were criticized for not giving upfront because it would have changed the way that everybody else would have given. By waiting until the end they end up like the tail wagging the dog.

(This piece was transcribed from a tape and edited for clarity of the written word only.)

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Service of the Heart

A man once came to the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Pashischa complaining that he suffers from terrible headaches every day after davening. The Rebbe Reb Bunim replied, "If you told me you get heartaches after davening, I would understand. But what does the head have to do with davening?"

(Heard from the Rebbe, shlit"a)

Bamidbar 5771: Do Not Ignore the Gifts of Others

On Shabbos (Iyar 24, 5771), the Rebbe said the following:

At the end of Parshas Bamidbar, the pasuk (4:20) says, "ולא יבאו לראות כבלע את הקדש ומתו", that the Leviim "should not come and look as the holy [vessels] is insereted (lit. swallowed), lest they die."

The Rebbe recounted the story of the Rebbe Reb Zisha of Anipoli, zy"a, who was frantically trying to raise 3,000 rubles in order to be able to ransom a young chosson. The deadline was in just a few more hours and Reb Zisha had yet to come up with a penny. As fortune would have it, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, zy"a, (the Kedushas Levi) and Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, zy"a, (the Baal Hatanya) pulled into town on a wagon. Reb Zisha immedaitelty told them of the mitzva that had come to them and they both agreed to help. The Baal Hatanya, however, had one stupulation, "I will help to collect the money but we must do it my way. Call together the elders of the community."

At the emergency meeting, the Baal Hatanya had them write up a list of all the inhabitants of the city and their approximate net worth. Upon reading the list, the Baal Hatanya pointed to one particular name and said, "We are going to him." The room gasped.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Drops of Rain: Bamidbar 5771

Here is Drops of Rain for Parshas Bamidbar.

Enjoy and have a gitten Shabbos!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Medrash: Bamidbar 5771

The Medrash Shiur this week revolved around the idea that every person has a spiritual place from where their neshama emanates, and the person's unique contribution in any area of life, especially in ruchniyus, is an expression of that particular source. The personal chidush that each one of us brings to avodas Hashem is part of a special area of Torah that we can never get enough of; it is exciting and joyous. In order for each individual to receive his portion of Torah on Shavuos, one must do their best to understand where they come from.
41 minutes, 9.4 MB PLAY DOWNLOAD

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Medrash: B'chukosai 5771

Here is the exceptional medrash shiur from this week, the night recording. The Rebbe touched on various topics in avodas Hashem, varying from Lag Baomer to fighting evil, from what mindset to have when sitting down to learn, to connecting oneself with all of Klal Yisroel before davening.
40 minutes, 9.8 MB PLAY DOWNLOAD

Pirkei Avos 5771: Walking Alone At Night

One day last week, the Rebbe decided to give a short shiur between Mincha and Maariv. Here it is almost word for word:
רבי חנינא בן חכינאי אומר: הנעור בלילה, והמהלך בדרך יחידי, ומפנה לבו לבטלה, הרי זה מתחייב בנפשו

Rebbe Chanina ben Chachinai said: One who is awake at night and who goes on the road by himself, and he turns his heart to wasteful things, this person is taking his life in his hands.
Let's take a look at this al derech avoda, which means looking at a statement from the standpoint of what its implications would be if we were trying to read in the words of Chazal some advice above and beyond the practical, as though it were addressing our spiritual struggles.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recording of Reb Yaakov Yisroel Twerski (full version)

A while back I posted a very short audio clip of the Rebbe Reb Yaakov Yisroel, ztz"l, that I received from Stuart Rojstatczer, a Milwaukee yid from back in the day. I just uploaded the full version (23 minutes) that I got from him. It is a very rare treat that we get to hear the voice of this great tzadik.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Seder Hayom (2): Kadesh Li Kol Bechor

I haven't written a halacha/seder hayom post since the first Modeh Ani post, so here goes.

In the Halacha Learning Program we have already learned the halachos of washing negel vasser immediately upon arising in the morning. In the sifrei avodah and Chassidus, however, we find that Divine service begins even before washing one's hands.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Behar 5771: The Heritage of His Fathers

"וכי ימוך אחיך עמך ונמכר לך...ואל אחזת אבתיו ישוב"
 (ויקרא כה, לט-מא)
"If your brother becomes impoverished and is sold to you...and he will return to the heritage of his fathers". (Vayikra 25:39-41)

Imagine the following scenario: A young man, twenty years old, is found guilty of stealing and he does not have with what to pay back what he has taken. His situation meets all the requirements of the Torah and he is sold into slavery to pay off what he has stolen. Six years later he has the opportunity to return home and for whatever reason he says, "I love my master" and he is then re-enslaved "forever", which the Chazal tell us means until the next yovel. Now, this occurred in the first year after yovel. So he is a slave from age twenty until he is seventy years old. We can imagine someone who was a slave for fifty years most likely identifies fairly strongly as a slave. People know him as Moishele Eved. However, the Torah tells us that he goes free after the yovel and he returns to his family, to the heritage of his fathers. Nobody is allowed remind him that he was a slave. We may not refer to him as a slave. He is not demeaned in any way by the fact that he was a slave his entire life. This is because he returns "to the heritage of his fathers". He was not born a slave. He may have been a slave practically his entire life but because he comes from a place of dignity, that identification is strong enough to essentially erase fifty years of slave mentality.

The Rebbe said that in his "over a yovel" of counseling, he has seen countless cases of people who, for one reason or another, had no childhood. They had verbally or physically abusive parents. If it wasn't their parents then it was a teacher or someone else prominent in their lives as a child. Some people grew up without parents entirely and they had no one too care for them in a way that provided them with a secure self-image and wholesome values. Many of them live frightened, angry, empty lives. No yovel can free them. These people, who today are somewhere between their forties and eighties, even if they could be freed from the mangled blackness and emptiness of their upbringing, have no "heritage of their fathers" to return to. There is no solid background for them to rely on. If they had a childhood, it was wrought with all the wrong experiences and influences.

Today, we have a responsibility to give our young people a childhood. Not just a loving and safe atmosphere for them to become who they are meant to become, but we must do absolutely everything in our power to see to it that they are not exposed to the toxic world that is available on every wireless device today. It is not just the images that are seared into a child's psyche for the rest of his life. There are attitudes and ideals that are so antithetical to Torah and that children are defenseless against.

Everyone goes through some form of slavery, a troubled, constricted period in their life. Most of the time we are freed from it, either by our own efforts or the passage of time. But we are able to ultimately remove the shackles and emerge free and with our dignity and integrity intact because we have a past to go back to and draw on to create a future for ourselves. A pure and healthy past is what enables us to move forward. We must provide a past for our children to nurse from in the future. אל אחזת אבתיו ישוב, "and he will return to the heritage of his ancestors".

(Shabbos Parshas Behar 5771, after davening)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Drops of Rain: Behar 5771

Great news!

The Rebbe gave the weekly gilyon an official title: Drops of Rain. It is based on the Medrash in Parshas Vayechi on the pasuk of וידגו לרב בקרב הארץ, v'yidgu larov b'kerev haaretz. The Medrash says, "Just as fish who live in water rush to the surface to catch a drop of rain from above, so too Bnai Yisroel who live in the waters of Torah, when they hear a new Torah thought, rush to receive it eagerly, as though they had never heard Torah before."

Here is the first official edition of Drops of Rain, for Parshas Behar.

Medrash: Behar 5771

Blogger has been making trouble the past few days. This post got deleted so here it is again:

The Medrash shiur continues! Click DOWNLOAD (15.3 MB) for the afternoon shiur from yesterday. Unfortunately, the recordings from the night shiur didn't turn out too great.

A Baby-Naming in Faltitchan

The Pekudas Elazar of Faltitchan
In my search for some info regarding the Radviller siddur, I came across something seemingly insignificant yet very intriguing. It is an invitation by none other than Rav Eluzar Twersky, ztz"l, the Faltitchaner Ruv and our Rebbetzin's grandfather (to the left), to his newly born daughter's "baby naming Shabbos". The text is in Hebrew and what appears to be German. This is not something we would have expected to find coming from pre-war Faltitchan (a Skver-Belz combo) where modernity was shunned to the greatest degree. One theory is that for "political" reasons, the Rav felt it worthwhile to invite particularly influential individuals to come to Faltitchan but needed an "excuse".

On Shabbos Parshas Yisro of 1924, the baby, the Rebbetzin's aunt, was named Malka. The Faltichaner had two daughters: Rebbetzin Sarah Stein, a"h, (the Rebbetzin’s mother) and,  yblch"t, Malka Katz.

Just for the sake of mentioning some Torah here, I saw in his sefer, Pekudas Elazar, that we say in Shmoneh Esrei, "ki atah shomea tefilas kol peh" - "for You hear the prayers of every mouth". The word for mouth is peh. The Rebbe Reb Burich'l of Mezhbizh said it like this, "For You hear the prayer so of everyone, even those whose prayers are feh!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medrash Shiur News

Rabbi Twerski's Medrash Class will start again today be"H.
It will take place at 2:15pm Central time and then again after CBJ maariv (approximately 8:50pm Central time)
The afternoon shiur will be available online, by phone , and live in person
The evening shiur will be available live in person and on the phone.

In person - 
Afternoon - at the home of Rabbi Michel Twerski - 3259 N. 51st Blvd
Evening - Beth Jehudah 3100, N. 52nd Street 
Online - see below
Phone -  646-770-1952 (follow prompts for live shiurim, and wait for Rabbi Twerski’s name)
We are using a new video service which will not have any advertisements.
Please see below for the login information.
Being a new service, the recording module is not set up yet, nonetheless there will be an attempt to record it and post it on Please check there to see if it is posted.
Contrary to previously emailed information, there is NO NEED for earphones or headsets.
You can log in to the classroom using the following link no earlier than 15 minutes prior to the class:
CLICK on USER LOGIN and enter a USER NAME of your choice and your EMAIL ADDRESS.
  1. You may select any username you wish, but keep in mind that this is the way your name will appear in the chat room.
  2. Your username must be a minimum of 5 characters, and may not contain any spaces.  
You will then be taken to the classroom page.
You will neither see nor hear anything until the program begins. Feel free to introduce yourself to the other participants in the chat room.
If during the class you have any questions or comments, there will be a box in which you can enter the question.
If you have any technical questions or problems logging in, email

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Emor: The Only Way Up is Down

Which Way is Up?

There is a concept in Chassidus called yeridah l’tzorech aliyah, literally translated as “a descent for the purpose of ascent”. The Sifrei Chassidus describe it harshly, yet consider it a signally essential step in the way people grow spiritually. When a person feels compelled to move beyond where they are, there is a sense of needing to grow, a tugging feeling. It can be felt as a certain intolerance of remaining where you are: “I just can’t stay here anymore. I’m not getting anything out of this. I need to move on.”

A person feels that they need to move from where they are. That feeling comes from a sense of being tugged at, drawn upwards. It could also be a feeling of just no longer being able to stay where one is, being pushed from behind. Whether it’s a pull from above or a push from behind, the idea is that a person understands the need to move.

But then something seemingly drastic happens. As soon as one commits to take the next step up, the rug gets pulled out from under him.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Birchas HaIlanos

Yesterday, the Rebbe shlit"a bentched Birchas HaIlanos, the blessing over budding fruit trees.

Minhagim: Sefiras HaOmer

Following the custom of the Ari Hakadosh, the minhag by most chassidim is not to cut one's hair during the entirety of Sefiras HaOmer until Erev Shavuos itself. (This does not include Lag Baomer when one is cutting his son's hair for the first time.) The Rebbe, shlit"a, follows this minhag as well.

It is customary to eat matzah at the seudos on Shabbos between Pesach and Shavuos.

The minhag is not to say Tachanun from Pesach Sheni (Iyar 14) through Iyar 20 which is the week of the sefirah of Hod. (This minhag is mentioned in the name of Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl, zy"a, among others.)

Women are exempt from the obligation to count Sefira, but may do so if they wish. If they are certain they won't forget to count any days, they may even count with a berachah. To the best of my knowledge, the Rebbetzin follows the custom of most Chassidim and does not count Sefira.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sefiras HaOmer: Forty Nine Equals Fifty

וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה
"and you shall complete weeks..."
תספרו חמשים יום
"and you shall count fifty days"

The commentators all ask the obvious question: Are we to count seven full weeks (only 49 days) or 50 days?

The Rebbe explained this apparent contradiction with the following parable: Someone buys a puzzle that claims to have 500 peices. He works on the puzzle until completion, all the while counting every piece. Once he finishes the puzzle, he realizes that there are only 499 pieces and immediately files a complaint with the company. He is told that now that he has completed the puzzle, he has a new entity that he did not have before. He now has the completed puzzle. That is a piece in and of itself and hence, 500 peices.

So too with counting the Omer. The exercise of Sefiras haOmer is intended to change a person. The hope is that if the seven weeks were complete and full (תמימות), then the person will be a changed and we will have a new entity at the conclusion. We count seven weeks but if they are full then we will have a new creation at the end and with the addition of that one there will be fifty.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Random Pictures

Here are some pictures of the Rebbe Reb Yaakov Yisroel, zy"a, and one of, yblch"t, the Rebbe, shlit"a. Thank you to Ely Weisz for bringing them to my attention. Tizkeh l'mitzvos!

Anyone who has additional info regarding these pictures please comment or email me. [UPDATE: The first two pictures are from the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Naftulche's chasunah. The man at the left in the first picture is the mechuten, Rav Yosef Panet of Dezh, ztz"l. The chosson in the second picture is Rav Naftulche, seated between his father and his shver.]
Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel, zy"a, dancing with his brother-in-law Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov, ztz"l
Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel, zy"a, sitting next to his brother-in-law Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov, ztz"l
TIME (later LIFE) Magazine did a story on Reb Sheya, shlit"a, when he was in medical school

The Rebbe, shlit"a, with the Bostoner Rebbe, ztz"l, in Eretz Yisroel.

Kedoshim 5771: Holiness In Numbers

Yidden learning together.
This past Shabbos (Kedoshim), the Rebbe spoke about the importance of banding together to raise levels of kedusha. The parsha of קדושים תהיו, you shall be holy, was said to all of Klal Yisroel, men women and children. This is to teach us that kedusha cannot be achieved or maintained alone. What one does or says, even in the most private of places, ripples through an entire family, a community and a nation.

The Rebbe hinted at the idea of forming groups or chaburos of like-minded friends to speak with, and together to overcome obstacles and challenges in avodas Hashem and in קדושים תהיו in particular.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kedoshim: Burn Away Evil or Light Up Darkness

The Classic Approach: Dark then Light

The pasuk says: Turn away from evil and do good. Classically, the understanding was that if you want to strive for higher levels of holiness, it is mandatory that you purge yourself of all bad midos and aveiros. A higher level means having a closer relationship with Hashem and you can’t invite G-d into a place which is littered with debris, which is soiled and malodorous.

For example, in the Torah we find the subject of the wayward wife, the sota, which is immediately followed by the nazir, who is someone who seeks to take upon himself an extra level of holiness. The order is specific. The Torah is telling us that first you have to take care of those things that relate to your straying (sota), things that in some way contaminated your neshama. Only after you’ve addressed that can you move on to the consideration of nezirus.

Chazal say that one who is not knowledgeable of  the laws of divorce and marriage then he should have nothing to do with their execution. If a person rules in matters of divorce without really knowing all of the laws he can create some horrific situations where people think that they are divorced when they are not. So too, marrying two people without knowing what to look for can make some very serious issues for a variety of reasons.

The Be’er Mayim Chayim points out that ordinarily the order is that marriage comes before divorce and here it says “divorce and marriage”. Chazal are telling us that first a person needs to divorce himself from whatever wrongdoing he may have going on in his life and then he could consider kidushin (the term used for marriage which also means hallowing). This is the classic and ideal approach. 

The Galus Approach: Light then Dark

Especially in Poilisher Chassidus, however, they maintain that the ideal approach worked in a time when people were stronger and could act decisively and forcefully on matters of evil and then move on confidently. But they argue that we live in a time of such distance and such darkness that if we tried to deal with the evil first we would just get stuck.

Trying to rid ourselves of either the scars of our past, to do the kind of teshuva that would purge us of our past, or even, they argued, that if we didn’t move on until such time as we were completely beyond reproach in the area of “sur meira” (turning away from evil), we would never get to it. What’s more is that it will get the better of us. We won’t win  that fight. So they argue that today we need to do as many positive things as we can, even though it is less than ideal. The main thing is to try and embrace light. The more light that we have the greater the chance that we will be in the position as some point to get rid of the darkness.

If you light one candle you banish a whole lot of darkness.

Hillel and Shammai on Chanukah

This is really the difference between the position of Shammai and the position of Hillel regarding the lights of Chanukah. According to Shammai you start with eight candles and work your way down. Hillel maintains that you start with one and build up to eight. Shammai says that the main objective of the Chanuka lecht is to burn away the evil and he takes the classic position that you should attack worst thing first. You progressively burn out the evil.

Hillel on the other hand says that the purpose is not to burn but to give light. By creating light in your life you become increasingly capable of moving onwards and upwards and eventually being able to confront the darkness. The goal is to gradually build up the powers of light.

So even though in the Torah, sota comes before nazir, but in the Talmud, Tractate Nazir precedes Tractate Sota. Ideally, we would work with the order the Torah places before us but we are now dealing with galus (representative in the Talmud Bavli). Chazal already understood that you have to bring in the extra level of holiness of the nazir and only then can you address the concept of sota and removing evil from oneself.

Incorporating Both Ways

There has to be a recognition of the truth of both of these positions. We are not going to be able to get as much light out of the positive when we are still engaged in stuff which is unbecoming. We have to understand that it does compromise our ability to really make the light as bright as it could and should be.

At the same time, it is very important that we fill our lives with as much light as we possibly can. We must try to integrate greater madreigos even though we may still be drawn down by things that have not been completely dealt with or that we may still be doing things that are not right. This should be done with the anticipation and the expectation that the inspiration and the uplifting that we will have from the great amount of light with which we flood our lives will give us the ability to confront all the demons and other issues that we were not strong enough to combat before.

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