Friday, December 28, 2007


Erev shabbos kodesh Parshas Shemos 5766

D’ei Chochmah L’Nafshechah

“let your soul know wisdom”

Parshas Shemos: Abridged

From the discourses of our Rabbi and teacher, The gaon and tzaddik, rav Yitzchak meir Morgenstern, shlit”a

Translated and adapted by Rav Micha chaim Golshevsky

* Not for General Circulation *

Published by the Yam Hachochmah institute

Under the auspices of “yeshivas toras chochom” for the study of the revealed and hidden Torah

4 ohalei yosef st., JerusaleM

An Abridged Version of This Week’s Shiur

The Avodah of the Twelve Tribes

"ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה"—“These are the names of the children of Israel who came to (or ‘come to’) Egypt.”[1] Just as all twelve tribes descended to Egypt before they could draw close to Hashem, so too must every single Jew also first pass through a personal Mitzrayim, along with successive stages of growth that parallel the avodah of each of the twelve tribes.

First is the avodah of Reuven (reiyah), the pleasure of “seeing” the light of the “countenance” of the King. Subsequently, one comes to the aspect of Shimon—when one’s begins to get a “name” (shem / shemuah) for people start to notice that one’s efforts to draw nearer to Hashem are bearing fruit. Levi symbolizes one’s connecting (leviyah, connection or escort) to the tzaddikim and following in their ways. One then comes to the path of Yehudah, grateful acknowledgement, hoda’ah and hodayah, of Hashem even when things are difficult. Afterward, one grasps the level of Yissachar, a deep appreciation of the value of every good deed and every word of Torah or prayer (“yesh sachar”—there is a reward).[2] One then comes to the level of the tribe of Zevulun who did business to support Torah scholars, for he truly appreciates the value of spirituality even when attained at the hand of another. Next, one attains the level of Binyamin (the “Ben Oni”—the one who passes through trouble to eventually come closer to Hashem, and the “Ben Yemin”—the son of the right-hand side), yearning for Hashem and true heartfelt prayer. Dan (din) represents the constant practice of judging oneself and one’s actions, to prune away any behavior not in keeping with Hashem’s will. Naftali is the path of connecting to the Creator, especially through prayer. The name Naftali (petil) is rooted in the word for a multi-stranded thread that wraps in upon itself, like the tefillin with which a Jew “binds” himself in prayer (tefillah) to Hashem.[3] The next grade of connection is the lovingkindness of Gad (gimmel and dalet are an acronym of the phrase “gomel dalim”—“He who gives to the destitute”). One then attains the level of Asher, whose “bread is fat,”[4] shmeinah, for he is well-filled with the study of Mishnah. (The Chid”a cites a Midrash which states that Asher son of Yaakov waits at the entrance to Gehinom and culls out all the condemned who learned Mishnah.[5])

And what of Yosef? Although people “in Egypt” always feel completely broken and can’t seem to find the proper path to the Creator, even those who have found a niche in serving Hashem also traverse the straights in their own way. Each attainment brings with it the danger of falling into arrogance, and this expresses itself by the person acting superior to his friend. This condition is an extension of the loss of Yosef. When a person reaches a spiritual goal and stops developing (mosif) because he feels complacent and self-satisfied, this parallels the verse: “And Yosef and that entire generation died.”[6]

The Greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu

The truth is that Dasan and Aviram were not simple people as many mistakenly believe. It was in their capacity of judges that they approached Moshe and exclaimed, "מי שמך לאיש"—“Who made you chief (literally, ‘the man’) over us?” However, Moshe’s level was very much above theirs since he felt the pain of every single Jew, especially those who were most caught in the depths of Mitzrayim. This is indicated by the verse, “And she saw that he was good.”[7] Moshe was good precisely because he didn’t feel he was above anyone else despite his towering spiritual achievements.

We can see Moshe’s great level from the verse, “And he looked around in all directions and saw that there was no ish, no man.”[8] The word Ish, man, refers to a person who is not completely G-dly. This is a reference to tzaddikim who serve Hashem on the level of the three lower worlds of Asiyah, Yetzirah, and Beriyah. The first is the world of Action, which implies serving Hashem because one realizes this is one’s duty. This first level is symbolized by the name Adon-i, literally “my Master,” since one is acting solely because he knows that Hashem is the Master of the world, and it is expressed in the first letter of Ish (איש). A tzaddik who has reached the world of Yetzirah, Formation, serves Hashem with his natural characteristics such as love and awed reverence. This second world is alluded to by the Name YHVH, and the yud of the word ish alludes to this Name. The third world is that of Beriyah, Creation, which is attained by a tzaddik who has who has reached the level of love and fear on the level of intellectual contemplation. It is alluded to by the name Shakai (ש-די), which is a contraction of the phrase, “He who said to His universe, Enough!” This Name is alluded to in the final shin of the word “ish.”

In contrast, Moshe reached a higher level—the level of the world of Atzilus. He looked "כה וכה"—“This way and that.” The word כה has a numerical value of 25 (chaf = 20, hei = 5) and it refers to the twenty-five letters of each of the prime statements of the Shema: "שמע ישראל ה' אלוקינו ה' אחד" and "ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד". [Note: The second statement is actually made up of twenty-four letters. If you add one for entire statement as the kollel, however, you come to the second “set” of twenty-five.] So Moshe attained the level of Shema united with Boruch Shem, and he “saw no man.” He saw no other man who had transcended the level of “Ish,” of the lower three worlds by ascending to Atzilus. This unification expresses the yichud of Atzilus, which was the level of Moshe. Moshe Rabbeinu never was self-aggrandizing. On the contrary, he was the paradigm of holy humility; he always felt that every spiritual achievement was a gift from Hashem. Even more, he felt that if another person had been given his gifts, he would surely have gone further.[9]

The ultimate tikkun is for every Jew to be deeply connected to his fellow Jew. This is the way that Moshe Rabeinu felt, and it is this humility that enables a person to do as he should and truly focus on Hashem’s unity, the single axis that unifies the entire universe. This is the only avodah that has genuine importance. Without it, all the other avodos cause a person to be arrogant. And anyone who feels greater than another is still in Egypt, regardless of whatever spiritual attainments he may have amassed. Moshe Rabbeinu’s aspect was primarily bitul, self-nullification, for his soul was drawn from the all-pervasive “waters” of limitless G-d consciousness. This is experiences as bitul in the midst of a multitude of distracting thoughts.

Moshe revealed in the world the path of “Zeir Anpin gazing in the face of Arich Anpin.” [Note: Zeir Anpin represents the lower middos or emotions that generally dictate a person’s actions. When a person’s actions are instead guided by the joy he experiences in transforming his challenging thoughts into connection with Hashem, the aspect of Arich Anpin, he is said to cause “Zeir Anpin to gaze into the face of Arich Anpin.” This was the avodah of Moshe Rabbeinu.] When a person reaches this towering level of continuously renewing his connection with Hashem, his face shines with a supernal light. This is the wisdom of man that “illuminates his countenance,” it comes to one who truly has internalized that Hashem never really hides His Face. He merely provides us with new opportunities to draw closer to Him on an even deeper level.

This revelation of Moshe is an aspect of, “And Moshe petitioned Hashem…”[10] He petitioned Hashem to reveal this path through which we will ultimately be redeemed. Although Hashem didn’t allow this revelation of a complete connection to the depths of the light of Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayers did have a very powerful effect and they do enable us to latch on to the path of Moshe / Moshiach / Atzilus that transcends the paths of other tzaddikim who revealed the aspect of the lower three worlds. It is only in the merit of his prayers that the deepest secrets of Torah may be revealed during the period preceding and during the arrival of Moshiach.

While the tzaddikim who were, and are, an aspect of the three lower worlds (as expressed in the word Ish as explained above) could not reveal the light to help even the furthest person out of the spiritual muck of the deepest pits of despair, Moshe and other tzaddikim who followed the path of Atzilus could, and can. Precisely because Moshe’s avodah is with complete connection and no self-aggrandizement, it is truly pure and it can uplift anyone from wherever he may have fallen. It was Moshe who took us out of Egypt, and it is the path of Moshe and in his merit that we are released from our spiritual Meitzarim, our own personal straights of Egypt. In order to merit this holy vision, the capacity to “be shown to know that Hashem is G-d,”[11] one must be connected to the true tzaddikim of the generation who are an aspect of Moshe. This can be attained by learning their works since these writings can bring a person to experience true dveikus and provide the broadened perspective needed to transform challenges into opportunities.

The entire exile is only an illusion. We ask Hashem to look kindly on our difficulties and help us open our eyes. Hashem placed the rainbow in the clouds, and clouds are an aspect of occluded vision, or spiritual barriers.[12] Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai told his son Elazar, “When we merit to see the rainbow shining in its brilliant colors, anticipate the arrival of Moshiach.”[13] May we be helped to see the “rainbow in the clouds,” the light that comes after traversing spiritual barriers, and merit to draw down the complete rectification of Moshe / Atzilus by connecting to tzaddikim and learning their works. Then we will be privileged to see Hashem’s long-awaited return to Tzion, speedily in our days. Amen!

Translated and Adapted by Rav Micha Golshevsky.

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In addition, Rav Morgenstern, shlit”a, gives a regular lesson on Eitz Chaim in English, Wednesday evenings at 8:00 PM, in the Beis Medrash of Toras Chochom. The yeshiva is located at Ohalei Yosef #4, near the corner of Bar Ilan St., Yerushalayim.

Please feel free to send comments, questions, and any feedback to:

[1] Shemos 1:1

[2] See Yirmiyahu 31:15 for this allusion.

[3] Bereishis 30:8

[4] Ibid., 49:20

[5] Chagigah 27a

[6] Shemos 1:6

[7] Ibid., 2:2; See Sha’ar HaKavanos, Drush HaPesach

[8] Shemos 2:12

[9] See Shemos 4:13, Rashi and Ramban there.

[10] Devarim 3:23

[11] Ibid., 4:35

[12] Bereishis 9:13; Likutei Moharan II:67

[13] Tikunei Zohar 78a

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Spirit of the Law--Chanukah part 2

This halachah follows the format of the Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Vayeishev. Enjoy!

1. On the first night of Chanukah, immediately before lighting the menorah, we recite three blessings: “L’hadlik ner Chanukah—To light the Chanukah candle,” “She’asah nissim—He who did miracles,” and “Shehechiyanu—Who gave us life.”

First, we need to explain the word “berachah.” A berachah draws down blessing upon us; the word derives from the same root as the bereichah, which means a natural pool that flows with an abundance of pure water.[1] Our blessings reach the highest spheres and draw down abundant spiritual and physical blessings. The very word Baruch is an acrostic of beis for Binah, reish for Chochmah (as in the verse reishis chochmah—the head, or beginning, of wisdom), vav for Da’as (the vav means a connecting hook, and da’as always implies integrated understanding), and chaf for Kesser.

In reference to the first blessing, those who follow Nusach Ashkenaz say, “L’hadlik ner shel Chanukah,” with the addition of the preposition “shel—of.” This addition is not a problem since each person can definitely follow his custom without sacrificing the sacred intentions of the blessings.[2]

Rav Nosson writes that the light of Chanukah represents the pride that Hashem takes in every single Jew. Rebbe Nachman said that Hashem takes pride in every Jew no matter his or her level as long as that person takes pride in being a Jew. This is the light of Chanukah because tzaddikim arouse Hashem’s pride in us until this light is revealed for all to see. We see it in the tremendous providence the Jewish people experience through the miracles that secured the survival of the Jewish people throughout the ages.

The revelation of providence then gives rise to azus d’kedushah, or “holy chutzpah”—one of the main pathways to courage and joy even when things are difficult. Azus d’kedushah means I have the nerve to do what I know deep down is right even my circumstances would seem to impede me altogether. One needs to have a lot of azus, of chutzpah, to continue in the face of real adversity, because unless I really know and feel how right my goal is, human nature will instead drive me to take the easier way out and say, “Why should I bother?”

This is why it is preferable to light the Chanukah candles at night, when darkness reigns. Lighting the candles outside the house represents lighting when I feel completely distant from Hashem and vulnerable, since the public domain is an unprotected area that spiritually is the realm of the forces of negativity. The aspect of “publicizing the miracle” is brought even more into focus when lighting outside, since I show by my very actions that I am willing to do what is right even if I have to suffer the censure of hostile neighbors, and even though I am “in the dark” and without security and protection. Despite all this, I do what is right because I am a Jew who takes pride in my Jewishness, just as Hashem takes pride in me.[3]

This is the meaning of the first blessing: “…Who sanctified us with His commandments”—we take pride in the fact that Hashem chose to grant us the commandments through which we are consecrated to Him—“…and commanded us to light the Chanukah light.” We light the candles of Hashem’s pride in us by taking pride in being His chosen nation. In the merit of this pride that we take in being Jewish, Hashem’s providence is revealed and we are sent hidden and revealed miracles that sustain us through our exile.

This brings us to the second blessing: “Who did miracles for our forefathers in those days, in this time.” We feel uplifted by all that Hashem has done for us “in those days,” and it arouses us to act with true Jewish pride “in this time.”

This concept carries over to the third blessing, of Shehechiyanu—“Who gave us life…” Through the Jewish pride that reveals Hashem’s pride in us, we draw down miraculous providence. This is the source of our life in exile. We have endured so much persecution that our very survival is only in the merit of hidden and open miracles. When we contemplate this truth, we are astounded and filled with gratitude.

Even today, considering the number and power of our enemies, the survival of the Jews is a complete miracle. Nowadays, the true enemy of Judaism’s survival is the tidal wave of assimilation, immorality, and the valorization of character defects that are part and parcel of popular culture. This is especially true of Jews who were not raised in a religious environment, but it is true of all our people. Everyone has to endure formidable tests of character and is hard-pressed to be a spiritual person, to adhere to Hashem’s mitzvos, and to serve Hashem with joy. The fact that we are here studying Torah in the twentieth century is in and of itself a great miracle.

Rav Nosson explains that the three elements in the blessing “Shehechiyanu” relate to person, place, and time. There is always a barrier preventing us as individuals from connecting to Hashem and surviving physically and/or spiritually (this is “person”) because of one’s spiritual or physical “place” (the challenges presented by one’s environment), and “time” (the temptation of procrastination). All of these limitations are overcome by grabbing hold of the opportunity to perform any mitzvah, especially those mitzvos that only apply infrequently.[4]

The more holy chutzpah that we have, the more pride we show in being Jewish and the more we drawn down Hashem’s providence on us. The Chashmonaim were willing to die for the sake of Hashem’s Name. They did not expect to live. They were a handful who stood against a world-class army and were willing to die for their Judaism. This demonstrated their true Jewish pride, and it was the ultimate act of holy chutzpah that resulted in the miracle of Chanukah. The same is true for every generation. The more Jewish pride that results in holy chutzpah and the self-sacrifice it engenders, the more miracles we draw down.

After the communists came to power in Russia and it became clear that religious persecution was their goal, the Chofetz Chaim said, “When it first started, the Jewish community should have fought with a willingness to die if need be. They would have won out just as the Chashmonaim did so many years ago.” The more “l’hadlik” there is, the more “she’asa nissim,” in person, place and time. Chanukah enables us to reconnect to pride in our Jewishness and tap in to true holy chutzpah. The more we do this, the more miracles we will be privileged to witness.

[1] Rav Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh HaChayim
[2] This is the opinion of the Arizal in Sha’ar Hakavanos, as brought in the beginning of the third section of Mishnas Chassidim and in many Siddurim.
[3] Based on Likutei Halachos, Birkas Hamazon 4:9.
[4] Based on Birkas Harei’ach 4:5.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kabbalah and Chassidus on the Parsha

If you are looking for wonderfully deep and inspiring lessons on the weekly parsha, check out Rav Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern's shiurim.
"Once you've tasted that excellent Hungarian wine, you can never be fooled with inferior stuff." (Chayei Moharan #260)

Chabad in Goa, India

Rav Guy Efraim, the Chabad shaliach in Goa, sent us a link to an online Chabad newsmagazine that featured the hachnasas sefer Torah they just celebrated. This was our favorite photo.

This is where the shaliach toivels every day... Now that's what we call mesirus nefesh!

Spirit of the Law--Chanukah part 1

The Spirit of the Law

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Chanukah 139:1-4

1) “…One should give an abundance of charity on Chanukah because these days are propitious for rectifying blemishes on one’s soul through charity, especially if one gives to poor people who learn Torah.”

Through giving charity, it is possible for a person to break his unhealthy desire for money. This avariciousness, which has the power when unchecked to overwhelm a person completely, is actually symbolized by the ancient Greeks. We can see this alluded to in the verse, “Tavati b’yavein metzulah”—“I have sunk into a deep mire.”[1] The word yavein (the mire of the lust for money) can also be read Yavan (Greece).[2] Although this world is full of many beautiful things, as soon as a person places a coin or his hand in front of his eye, he isn’t able to see anything at all. Similarly, if a person’s entire existence is focused on pursuing money or ego-driven pleasure, he cannot see the light of spirituality and holiness.[3]

In addition, giving charity draws down the light of Providence upon the giver, and it happens middah k’neged middah—measure for measure. The giver demonstrates his trust in Hashem to provide for his needs despite the fact that he is sharing some of his material wealth. This reliance on Providence draws the light of Providence down upon the giver. This is one way to understand the significance of the light of the menorah—it represents the light of Providence. Especially when things are dark and we cannot fathom the ways of Hashem, the illumination of Providence lights up the darkness. The miracle of the menorah fills us with the vision that especially when things are difficult, during the depth of a spiritual winter, Hashem is always right here with each and every one of us.[4]

2) “We do not fast on Chanukah…”

The Mekor Chaim, zt”l, explains that the main purpose in fasting is to overcome one’s base physical nature, since this is the source of all evil. On Chanukah, however, the negative within us is subdued when we are open to receive the spiritual illumination that descends. Since the negativity inside of us has already been mitigated, there is no point in fasting. If, on the other hand, a person is not open to the illumination of Chanukah, then fasting is a waste of time in any case. As Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, explains, such fasting could be compared to carefully scrubbing a torn sack. Although it may get clean, the holes will remain and prevent its proper use.[5] If one wishes to achieve holiness during Chanukah, he will accomplish far more by focusing on the supernal influx that flows down during those precious days. Reb Nosson, zt”l, writes that the days of Chanukah (and Purim) were established to strengthen those who are so spiritually ill that they lack the energy to accomplish anything at all. Similarly, during the long winter of our exile we sometimes feel that we are making no progress spiritually. Through the light of Chanukah, Hashem shines into each of us individually to help us understand that we should not give up trying because everything we do is precious in the eyes of the Creator. This is one reason why the custom among Ashkenazim is for everyone to light their own menorahs—because the light shines into us all. At the root of the concept, this certainly includes women and girls. The Chasam Sofer zt”l, explains why it is that we do not find that in our time women and girls light for themselves. When the sages originally made the enactment to light, it included women. Since the original mitzvah was to light outside, however, no woman tried to do this mitzvah l’mehadrin; it was not considered befitting honor of a woman to go out in the early evening. Even in our time when most people light indoors, the custom has remained the same.[6] The Maharshal and the Elya Rabba explain the reason differently. Since most get married and the original enactment was for a man and his wife to light one candle, there is no reason for a girl under the age of bas mitzvah to light, since eventually she will not need to light. It was never customary for girls to light for themselves between the age of bas mitzvah and marriage, since they tended to marry young in any case. Even though in our times many women marry later than they used to, the custom hasn’t changed.[7]

3) “Although it is permitted to perform work on Chanukah, the custom is that women do no work while the candles are lit (that is, the minimum obligation of time—half an hour)… The reason why women in particular are strict about this is because of the decrees of the Greeks specifically about women… Also, the miracle of redemption happened through a woman…”

The Mekor Chaim, zt”l, explains why the Greeks enacted decrees specifically against women, and why the miracle of redemption happened specifically through a woman.

We find in the Zohar Hakadosh that the kingship of Antiochus represents the concept of orlah, the foreskin, which is cut away during circumcision. The orlah acts as a filter that prevents a man from grasping holiness. For this reason, a Jewish man who maintains his foreskin and does not submit to circumcision is liable to the Divine punishment of kares. His orlah keeps him powerfully tied to worldly pleasure that lacks a connection to the Source.[8]

This is why the Greeks forbade circumcision, the observance of Shabbos, and the declaration of the new month. These three mitzvos are diametrically opposed to the concept of orlah. Shabbos is the opposite of orlah because on Shabbos we delight in worldly pleasures for the sake of heaven. The truth is that there is no mitzvah to overeat on Shabbos, as the Shelah Hakadosh writes. However, the Arizal explains that even if a person overindulges on Shabbos, the food is still elevated to the Source. Rosh Chodesh is also the opposite of orlah since it is a time of arousal to the spiritual renewal found in sincere repentance. This is the opposite of the orlah’s power to blind a person from the holiness that is to be discovered within the physical world. And circumcision itself is, of course, the complete eradication of the orlah.

The Jewish woman represents the Shechinah, the Divine presence, which is the opposite of the orlah and its deadening effect on one’s spiritual existence. This is why it is only through marriage that a man can come to true completion. The orlah is a blemish that distances one from completion. This is why the Greeks made decrees to destroy the sanctity of Jewish marriage (the removal of the possibility of privacy), and this is also why the miracle was specifically through a woman. Yehudis subdued those who represent the klippah of orlah just as marriage to a G-d-fearing woman subdues this force of negativity within a man. Jewish marriage is how one comes to overcome the seemingly grossly material reality that we live in by discovering the true spiritual identity of all that is material. Reb Nosson explains further that as long as a Jewish man is connected spiritually through marriage to a Jewish woman, it is clear that he will not fall completely![9]

[1] Tehillim 69:3

[2] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Aveidah U’metziah 3:8

[3] Likutei Moharan I:133

[4] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Shluchim 3

[5] Likutei Moharan I:17

[6] Chiddushei Shabbos 21b

[7] Maharshal 85; Elya Rabba 671:2, end of subsection 3.

[8] Mekor Chaim 670:1

[9] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Bechor Beheimah Tehorah 4:26

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shalom Bayis--a caveat

A comment was submitted that the last two postings on Shalom Bayis were also helpful for husbands. Although I agree that when you help the wives, you're helping the husbands too, there is an important distinction to be made.
In my community, the Rav always spoke in the shiurim to the men about the need to appreciate their wives, to help, to pay attention to their wives, and so on. And the Rebbetzin always spoke about how important it is to let the men learn and pray, not to always be throwing on them these burdens of the household if possible, etc.
Which can, and has, lead to the unfortunate problem of women coming to their husbands with kashrus-approved resentments, "Why don't you listen to the Rav? Why don't you help out more?" And the husbands might answer in the same vein, "Don't you know that I have more important things to do than do the floors for you? Why don't you understand that my learning is worth something?"
The wise person is always seeking to hear the words of mussar that apply to him or her, not to the other. If we want to achieve shalom bayis, we need to seek out the chizuk that applies to ourselves and our own challenges, not further ammunition to take the moral inventory of our partner.
Which I'm sure wasn't Yitz's intention with his comment, but I just thought it only right to mention.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shalom Bayis Q&A, part 2

A continuation of the conversation about the issues that came up in the first installment...

> Dear Yehudis,
> Shavua Tov! I wanted to ask a few more questions about Shalom Bayit.
I have to start by saying that my husband is a very warm, caring, partner with yirat shamayim (he even usually does whatever dishes are left at night); a fun, responsible, and caring father, and a good Jew. I have been particularly emotional lately and am focusing a lot of anger, disappointment, frustration on him.

Yes, it sounds like it. You have to take account of the fact that your hormones are working overtime because you are pregnant. This tends to pass.

> He just got Rav Arush's book on Shalom Bayit, so that could help.
How about your, yourself, reading B'Gan HaEmunah by Rav Arush?

> I hope none of this is Lashon haRa. I am writing it for the purpose of coming to a higher place in Shalom Bayit, and am sharing it with you b/c I trust that you will give him the benefit of the doubt and know that he is a beautiful neshama. Please let me know if any of it is inappropriate or if there is a better way of communicating.

I am anyway not accepting anything you say as the "truth" of the situation, rather as the expression of your take on it and your own feelings. The Chofetz Chayim teaches that you are permitted to speak out your heart to a confidante provided that it is understood on both ends that you aren't out to badmouth anyone, and I'm not out to hear anyone maligned. Which is true in our case.

> I'm rereading the Surrendered Wife and feel in some ways that I'm making progress and in some ways confused about some of the messages.

The book is not Toras Moshe M'Sinai. It's helpful, I don't agree with all of it, but she makes many important points that often get lost.

> A lot of these questions are based on premises from the book. During Bein hazmanim, I shared with you some of my challenges around not feeling like I was getting enough attention from my husband. One of the claims in the book, is that if he is spending a lot of time doing something else, it could be to avoid your controlling, nagging, etc. The examples she gives is him watching TV, overworking. . . this is the "havdil of havdalot" from Torah learning, which is what my husband spends the majority of his time doing. So how to relate? I was very angry thinking that somehow this was to avoid me, and still not so shaleym that he chose it over me. Of course when I mentioned I thought we might spend some time together, he was more than willing to make the space. I guess I'm expecting too much to want that to come from his own initiative. At the same time, I was able to whole-heartedly thank him for bringing Torah learning into the home, and not disturb him while he was learning, which took a lot of self-control.

Okay. First of all, like I tried to point out before, you are in a bind. Because you would like to have two things that are incompatible, and you also don't like feeling like a nag. It seems obvious that you cannot both have his attention and time and also get to feel like a bit of a tzadekes for letting him learn. It's one or the other. My recommendation would be to get out of both mentalities if possible. Meaning, that you clarify just how much of your need for attention is genuine and how much is a mental projection of what you think ought to be "magiah lach"--coming to you. Because, it's natural that we develop these mental pictures of what is supposed to be, and when we are operating from the level of fantasy, it can mess up our reality. Put it this way; a woman can get into a deep resentment about her husband not doing the dishes, not because they ever spoke about it and he promised and reneged, or because he put up a fuss and outright refused, but simply because she *assumed* that he would pick up on the fact that he *ought to* volunteer. It's also natural that his assumptions about what is the norm, what the wife will normally want or expect, has been shaped by his own upbringing, and unless it is either brought out into the open or acceded to, it's going to create a problem.
The other mentality is the business of being a tzadekes. Now, I think that it's probably nice to be a tzadekes (not that I have any first-hand knowledge), but my impression as an outsider to tzidkus is that it is not characterized by resentment and stewing in silence or rage.
So, you have to make some decision inside yourself about your relationship with Torah study and your real, not your fantasy, real-life support of Torah study. Do you love the Torah enough to let your husband sit and learn? Do not assume (like perhaps you read in Surrendered Wife) that it's avoidance. Chas v'shalom! Hopefully, it is real ahavas haTorah you see under your nose. And considering that your husband is a good Jew who also loves you, it is safe to assume that it is not avoidance. Learning is challenging, and most men would rather shoot the breeze with their wives than learn if it's a burden to them. It's not like watching TV or reading a novel or fooling with a computer.
So he's learning. Great! Now you get to see where you are holding in your love of learning. Maybe you are finding that you don't love the Torah quite as much as you thought! I will admit from experience that this can be disillusioning. Even so, the feelings highlight the place that needs work.

> Another issue I am having that I mentioned before, is the balance of not controlling, i.e. telling him what to do (which he is usually willing to do when I ask), and then not being resentful that I'm doing it myself when I restrain myself from asking.
> The book claims that this will pass as he gains confidence and desire to please you, he will pick up the slack. In the meantime, I feel like the more I do, the less he does. At some point I just shut down and get angry. (An example: I was cooking for Shabbat, setting the table, preparing the food,getting our daughter ready, bringing the food, and clearing the table.) By seuda shlishit, I was feeling very exhausted and unable to do anything so of course, he did all of those things for the seuda. I very much appreciate when he does it and do let him know, however it feels like it happens more from a place of my being angry or shutting down so that he is forced to do it.

I tend to go along with the theory, "Mistome, you married a good guy who is out to make you happy. So why are you not letting him know that you're flailing?"
It's like the husband is on the shore, and the wife is swimming and she gets a cramp. And she's very stoic, so she's rubbing the leg, and all the while he sees her way out there and is thinking, "Oh, she's great. What a swimmer! And she's so lovely, and I can't believe she's mine." Meanwhile, the wife massages out the cramp, nearly drowns, and eventually makes her painful way back to shore. Where she immediately laces into her husband, "I could have drowned out there! Didn't you see I was in trouble?! Why didn't you swim out to help me?! You ****!" And so on. You get the picture.
So it's easy to say, "Lady, why didn't you raise you hand out of the water and send a signal?"
Send a signal.
Don't wait until you're overwhelmed and angry. Just let him know, without recriminations and with trust in his innate goodness and love for you, "I've put out a lot of energy making Shabbos, and I think I'm finished. I'm struggling a little here, and I really need your help. Could you help me out, please?" This is the tzadekes problem all over again. We want to come off like we have it all covered, so we wait too long to ask for reasonable assistance. When you have a real need, you shouldn't have to nudge (in the sense of "noodge"). If you don't demand, you allow your partner to be gracious and give. If you don't let on you need help, he will naturally assume that you don't.

> I have come to realize that a lot of my anger and disappointment comes from unmet expectations. I expect that when he's home, which is only a few hours that we're awake and home at the same time (not including Shabbat), of course where we're together most of the day and I have similar expectations) he should be focused on my needs or my daughter's or the household.

I'll be having a fine day and will be busy preparing dinner so it will be ready when he gets home. He walks in the door and sits down to rest, maybe plays with our daughter but doesn't necessarily get her something if she asks, and at some point I turn into a sourpuss that he isn't helping get dinner on the table or taking over with whatever our daughter needs. Or with the Shabbat table, I expect that he has equal (or maybe even more so since I'm doing it all week and feel like it's a time to rest) responsibility to get bring the food, or get our daughter what she needs. He really often does, only when he doesn't it's hard for me.

See above. I have a friend who says, "Tzipiot, heim rak lakariyot." Which means: "Expectations (which are also pillowcases in Hebrew) are only for the pillows."

> The last thing for now, I know it's a lot, is again from the Surrendered Wife. he is an expert at "casting the bait". Which way is better to get to X (where he's driven a hundred times) Where's the lemon? Can I eat this? Can I learn now?" He is a very considerate person and wants to please, so he wouldn't want to take something to eat that might be saved for someone else. However, often there is more than enough of that food, and I always say yes. So when he baits me and I try to say "I don't know" or "Whatever you think," it tends to be from a place of irritation, or anger. In our dating, I had this issue with him that he would rarely take a stand about where to go or what to do. "Well what do you want to do? What do you think?" Here I am trying to give up control... (although not so graciously, and he won't take it.)

That's an important little point hiding in there. I'm not going to comment, but I will recommend that you mediate on your words for a bit. Something is very off there. All of this "not taking control" sounds like a very controlling way to change your husband. Consider this.

From spending time with his parents, I know he grew up in a household where all the cooking, down to preparing a sandwich, and most everything else was done for him and everything in exact order. And his mother ran the show. Also a European kind of politeness/humility, of asking to use something or take it, which is not my way of doing things. Most of the time, I'd rather he take whatever's in the fridge without asking and if I had been intending on eating it, I just assume that I'll find something else. There is always plenty around. So he's all the time with these questions about what to do or how to do a thing, and half the time I answer out of habit, and the other half I'm angry that he can't/won't "be a man" and figure it out himself.
> Reflecting on this, I need a lot of tefillah to Hashem to help with my anger and to have compassion, and patience and love for my husband. I also want to believe that the more I give up control the more he'll take. In the meantime I need to work on being quiet without it boiling up inside; to appreciate his caring nature and his desire to please; and take care of myself. Rest more, not over do it, so I have koah and patience for him when he is home.
> As always, I appreciate any feedback. Thanks again for all your help in the past. You truly are a wonderful mashpia. I gain a lot of chizuk from who you are and your teachings.
> Love and Blessings,
I see that at the end there you sort of figured out all by yourself that you need to have more understanding.
I was working with a kallah today, and I tried to explain to her that objective #1 during Shanah Rishonah is to learn how not to exploit the vulnerabilities of my partner that I begin to discover after we are married. Both you and your husband have vulnerabilities, weaknesses in other words, and it is your job not to exploit his, and his not to exploit yours. If you see that he is "handicapped" by certain aspects of his upbringing (which you must bear in mind, other women who come from his own culture might find perfectly appropriate and desirable), it is mainly because you are not an exact fit there. Over time, the rough edges that don't quite align will wear down, and you will fit better. This is the process of the marriage. He will adjust to you, and you will adjust to him.
Take care,

Shalom Bayis Q&A, part 1

Yehudis often gets calls and letters with questions about shalom bayis and chinuch. We have decided to begin to post (with permission, of course) some of these "conversations" in case they might be of benefit to others out there in the blogosphere. The questioner's words are prefaced by the right-arrows; Yehudis' answers appear between two rows of dotted lines.

> Dear Yehudis,

> I have Shalom Bayit questions and am exhausted now so, maybe I'll quickly ask: When am I to share my feelings that my husband is not giving me enough attention or doing enough around the house? He's off yeshiva for the week and he's spending the morning at home learning Torah, which I honor and at the same time, I had this idea we should be spending special time together. I guess I need to tell him that but am not sure how to do so without being accusatory, i.e. "Why don't you give me more attention?!" And of course I'm busy doing laundry, cleaning up, getting groceries , whatever, but it's hard for me to be in the same space together during bein hazemanim, (usually he's at yeshiva most of the day), and not somehow connecting more. I'm confused about giving him space to do what he needs to be fulfilled (i.e. learning Torah), and somehow wanting to feel fulfilled through him.

> Love and Blessings,



Dear .....,
Well, that's a bundle of questions all wrapped up together.
You really telescoped a few very different matters into a single question, with I think not enough clarity about the difference between all of them.
1) You are resentful that he is there and not helping you more with the household.
2) You are not sure how to feel about him sitting and learning while you are running around taking care of business. You have this idea that you should automatically feel inspired, but you're not and that makes you feel like something's wrong; either between the two of you, or with your emunah.
3) You are feeling ignored, which is painful.
4) You are a little jealous that he gets to learn and that you are doing the wash!
5) You are unclear about the period of bein hazemanim. Is it time for a vacation? Going out for long walks? Schmoozing?
6) How are you supposed to express your emotional needs and perhaps your need or desire for assistance without being a nag?

I hope that I have it pretty much down, and here's my take on it:
I have a feeling that the two of you never discussed just what your ideas are about bein hazemanim. When I got married, the first bein hazemanim after the wedding was Nissan. I remember that on the first day, my husband looked at me across the table and said, "Bein hazemanim is a makah she'einah kesuvah baTorah, a plague that was never written about in the Torah." I didn't take that as a statement that he didn't want to spend time with me; I understood it the way he meant it--that it throws you off your stride, and it's an adjustment that is hard. And I could tell that it didn't have to do only with having the responsibility of helping me out to prepare for Pesach, but that it had always been difficult, even when he was just a bochur with barely any responsibilities of his own aside from learning.
I'm not big on doing too much talking and analysis, because I think that the men tend to get bulldozed by those conversations. In practical terms, though, you have a number of options.

1) Realize that your husband is probably trying very hard not to lose the flow of learning, the discipline of it, so that he will be able to return to yeshiva without having to struggle to get back his groove. What he has is yours too, so I would say that you should try for some compassion. Learn to ignore his presence and try and focus on the Torah vibe in the house. Most women have an easier time when their husbands are out learning than when they're home, because they mistakenly assume that if the man is home he ought to be at their service. It's simply not true. But I will admit that, as a wife, it is a very big challenge not to fall into that kind of thinking.
2) That said, if you really need help or you really need time together, it is important to get it across. Before you say anything, just look at your husband and think, "I married him for this, and this, and this good quality. He has all of those qualities and many more. He is a good guy who is not out to make my life difficult. If he knew that I felt badly, he would surely make an effort to help me or focus his attention on me." Then, when your heart is filled with love and positive thoughts, you can say, "I'm sorry to disturb your learning; I know it's very important. I was just wondering if, when you have a minute, you might be able to help me with something/you might be able to give me a little time, because I need you."
But, really, the best thing is to pretend he's not there when he doesn't want to be disturbed, and go about your business. Not resentfully, just think that he's in yeshiva and just like you wouldn't call him in the middle of seder to ask him to come home and take out the garbage, you wouldn't stop him at home unless it's an emergency.
3) Now, you might want to discuss the fact that you would like to work out that every bein hazemanim (not chol hamoed), you're thinking that it would be good for your marriage to take a day together. Then, you don't feel like you never got your special time, but it doesn't have to color the entire bein hazemanim. And if, one time, it doesn't work out, it's not a big deal. Because there's another bein hazemanim coming up in a few months anyway.
4) About feeling fulfilled... You aren't going to have the fulfillment if you are bearing a grudge. That has to be worked out--then you'll find that it's easier to feel good about him sitting and learning. Because you don't have this underlying expectation that he's going to be at your disposal. You know that he cannot do both at the same time.
On the flip side, the more your focus on the importance of the Torah, how good it is for your home to have Torah studied there, the easier it will be to let go of the resentment and the expectations. He's doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing. If you really need him, it will have to become understood between the two of you that he will help you. When your husband knows that you will only call on him when necessary, he will respond devotedly. At least, this is my experience.

Take care,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rebbe Nachman and the Philosophers--part 1

Some people are aware that Rebbe Nachman spoke out strongly against getting immersed in the study of philosophy, especially Jewish philosophy rooted in the Aristotelian worldview found in some of the works of the Rishonim. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand his position as just another form of anti-intellectualism. A closer examination of his work reveals that Rebbe Nachman's approach is really all about appreciating what one stands to lose by engaging in philosophical speculation, more than what is wrong about the content of the material itself. (I have to admit that he doesn't like much of the content either!)

So what could be so wrong with a work like the Moreh Nevuchim that Breslovers didn't even like to refer to it by name? They would call it the "Sefer Mem-Nun," as if even the word for the theologically confused could infect them with the same disease. But this really exposes the issue--it all has to do with seeing lack of emunah as a disease. If building a straightforward and loving relationship with G-d is the core of my Judaism, dwelling on questions for which I am almost certain to find no fully satisfying answer due to my human limitations, or cultivating an attitude of intellectual detachment in my effort to seem sophisticated or wise, is going to scuttle all my best efforts.

The following story illustrates the point well:

The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, found his son, Reb Leib, zt”l, learning Moreh Nevuchim a number of times, and on each occasion he reprimanded his son, “This is not the way to true greatness.” Reb Leib didn’t argue, but when he was alone, he continued learning from the Rambam’s work. It was only when the Chofetz Chaim saw that rebuke alone wasn’t helping and took the sefer away that Reb Leib protested. “But I don’t understand what the problem is! The Rambam delved in philosophy, and who can compare to him? Chazal even tell us that Avraham Avinu came to belief in Hashem through philosophical speculation!”

The Chofetz Chaim replied, “You cannot construe Avraham Avinu as proof since he lived in a generation of idolaters and had to find his own way to true emunah. The Rambam also is no support for your study of chakirah because he wrote his book for those already influenced by the non-Jewish philosophers, for people who required help extricating themselves from the confusion such philosophies bring in their wake. This is the reason for the name of the work, the Moreh Nevuchim: Guide for the Perplexed.

The Chofetz Chaim continued, “But we are not perplexed! We know that Hashem appeared before the entire Jewish people at Mount Sinai and spoke to us! Why start from Aleph Beis? You can compare what you are going through to a child in his father’s arms. The father hugs and kisses his child and attends to all of his needs. If someone were to approach the child and ask, ‘Who is holding you?’ he would instantly respond, ‘My father.’ Any attempt to convince him otherwise would surely be futile. The child knows with his whole being that this is his father!”

The Chofetz Chaim concluded, “Woe to the child who still needs proof that the one who protects and cares for him so lovingly is his father! Even if you prove this to the child’s intellectual satisfaction, he will still not feel the natural bond of love which exists deep down between every child and parent. Unless this child gets in touch with his deepest feelings, he will always feel coldly toward his parent!”

Monday, October 8, 2007

Make a Rav for Yourself

This Shabbos, the Ribbono Shel Olam sent us a lot of guests and we enjoyed them immensely. During the afternoon meal, the conversation at the table was dominated by the question of what it means to become part of a community, how does a baal teshuvah find his or her place, and other questions of a spiritual nature. And one of our guests was very obviously in a dilemma about what her next move ought to be; she wanted direction, but she also seemed very set in her ideas about what would be right for her.
Later on in the day, when I had some time to myself, I realized that this is part of the meaning of the statement of the Sages in Pirkei Avos: "Asei lecha Rav..."--"Make a Rav, a master who'll be your teacher, for yourself." One would think that the Mishnah ought to say, "choose a Rav," or perhaps, "find a Rav," but it doesn't. It says to make your mentor. So it occurred to me that it is not the objective value of the potential teacher, what he has to teach, that makes him the Rav--it is my willingness to accept his marus, his authority, over me that invests another person with the power to guide my life. And if I am not willing to accept that authority, then I never truly have a Rav no matter how many lectures I attend or even how many questions I ask.
Just to complete the Mishnah, I'll bring a beautiful thought from Reb Nosson of Breslov, zt"l: "...U'knei lecha chaver..."--"Acquire a friend for yourself." Reb Nosson offers a play on words; knei in Hebrew can be the singular masculine command form "acquire!" but it also means, "a pen." He writes, and it's brought in the Milei d'Avos from Likutei Halachos I don't remember where, that your pen (or your keyboard) is your true friend. Use the pen, use writing as a tool to develop your Torah thoughts, your prayers, your connection with other people by offering them chizuk, encouragement.
May we all merit to enjoy a gezunte vinter, a healthy winter, and a good year.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Spirit of the Law--Sukkos part 1

Hilchos Sukkah 134:1-2

1. “…It is a mitzvah incumbent on each person to exert himself personally to build his own sukkah and place the s’chach on it. Even if he is a distinguished person, he should not feel that this is beneath his dignity since performing the mitzvah of sukkah himself is a great honor…”

Building a sukkah must be done not only on a physical level but on a spiritual level as well, and the main way to accomplish this is through prayer. Rebbe Nachman teaches that we should pray for even the most minor-seeming physical need, and we should certainly pray to attain our far more important spiritual goals. There are really two main ways in which we engage in prayer: one is most accessible when we don’t have emotional energy and are in a “down” phase, while the second is more appropriate for when we are feeling spiritually healthy and “up.”

What is the first path like? Once, on the first night of Sukkos, Rav Nachman of Tulchin remarked to his mentor, Reb Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, “After working so hard today to build the sukkah, I feel able to taste much more of the holiness of the sukkah!”

Reb Nosson responded, “However, you still haven’t tried to cry out to Hashem the whole day, ‘Ribbono shel olam! Master of the universe! Please give me a taste of the true holiness of the Sukkah!’ Imagine what kind of taste in the mitzvah of sukkah you would be feeling after such a prayer!”[1] So the first way is to keep pleading with Hashem as much as I can: “Please give me a taste of the holiness of Sukkos!”

But the tool of prayer becomes so much more powerful when we learn more deeply about the meaning of the mitzvah, and then transform what we have learned into prayer. As Rebbe Nachman taught, this transformation generates the most lofty sha’ashuim, pleasure and joy, on High. To help us open our minds to the deeper levels inherent in the mitzvah, let’s contemplate a lesson from Likutei Halachos…

Reb Nosson explains that one of the purposes of sukkah is to internalize the imminence of Hashem even when we feel very distant from spirituality. This is why we are obligated to eat and sleep in our sukkah. (Admittedly, the custom is not to sleep in the sukkah outside of Israel for a variety of reasons. It is important to note however that a number of great Rabbonim and Tzaddikim slept in their Sukkos regardless. One luminary who slept in his sukkah regardless of the weather or the presence of hostile non-Jews was the Vilna Gaon). Now, as we all know, how we eat and how much we eat (or overeat!) is one of the main causes of our feeling distant from Hashem. Similarly, when we sleep, we are experiencing a mini-death, one that usually, and unfortunately, can make us feel further from Hashem as well. It is only a very unusual person who will feel connected to Hashem while eating and sleeping. Since the sukkah is a living space almost always far more vulnerable than our usual home, eating and sleeping in it is meant to help us feel greater closeness to Hashem while we are engaged in the mundane world and at our most vulnerable. It is this very vulnerability that underscores our great dependence on Hashem, our need to rely on Him and trust in His protection. While dwelling in the ‘shade of faith’ (tzilah d’meheimenusa, as the Zohar Hakadosh writes), our sukkos elevate the acts that cause us to feel distant from Hashem by their very nature.[2]

Many say that the Torah of Ishbitz and the teachings of Rav Tzaddok HaKohen, zt”l, are a kind of continuation of the concepts found in Likutei Halachos, and so it seems that a little interjection of the Ishbitzer Rebbe, zt”l, wouldn’t be out of place here…

The Mei Hashiloach, zt”l, explains that the true meaning of the mitzvah of sukkah is to, “…leave one’s permanent dwelling and reside in a temporary one.” We must leave behind our natural tendency to think that the physical world is an independent and fixed reality and realize instead that it is just a transient mask that conceals Hashem’s presence. This is not a mere intellectual exercise; we must feel that each new moment of existence for every single creation emanates directly from Hashem. This is the foundation of all Divine service.

During his younger years, the Beis Halevi, zt”l, learned in a designated room in his father-in-law’s house. His father-in-law, a chossid of Rav Moshe of Kovrin, zt”l, had agreed at the beginning of their relationship that he would never disturb his son-in-law’s study for any reason whatsoever.

Once, Rav Moshe came to visit at his follower’s home. Although the Beis Halevi’s father-in-law wanted his Rebbe to meet his son-in-law, he couldn’t see how it would be possible to introduce them since this would mean interrupting the Beis Halevi’s constant study. On the day his Rebbe was going to leave, Rav Moshe finally had an idea. He couldn’t interrupt his son-in law…but someone else could! When he noticed that the Beis Halevi had left his room for a moment, he placed Rav Moshe’s luggage inside.

When the Beis Halevi returned and resumed his study, the Rebbe knocked at the door. “What do you want?” the Beis Halevi asked.

“My bags are here. May I come in?”

The Beis Halevi was just then learning the final section of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim. Rav Moshe asked, “What about the first subsection? Do you manage to fulfill it?”

The Beis Halevi answered, “I work on ‘shivisi Hashem linegdi samid’ (‘I will place Hashem before me always’) fifteen times a day. But I’m always troubled that although the Ramoh says that imagining being in the all-knowing presence of the King immediately fills a person with fear, it takes me time to feel it.”

The Rebbe explained, “That is because you are thinking with your head. Fear of heaven resides in one’s heart, and it takes time to reach from your head to your heart. That’s why the Ramoh says to, ‘…place it on his heart’—not on his head!’”

2. “…Regarding the walls of a sukkah, there are many complicated halachos which not everyone knows… For this reason, it is better to make a four-walled sukkah. If one can’t afford this, he should at least make a sukkah of three full walls…”

At the beginning of Maseches Sukkah, the Gemara teaches that one must have at least two walls and a tefach (handsbreadth) of a third wall that are at least ten tefachim high, and not higher than twenty amos (cubits). Since there are many complexities regarding how to arrange the walls, it is best to have at least three full walls. (It is even better to have four walls so that the wind should not shake the sukkah or extinguish the Yom Tov candles, as the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch explains here.)

Two full walls and a third wall of a tefach width has a very special spiritual significance. The Arizal explains that in the verse, “His left arm is below my head, and His right arm embraces me,” (Shir HaShirim 2:6) the left alludes to the attribute of justice, and the right alludes to the attribute of mercy. This is why “the left arm” represents the Yomim Noraim, the season of judgment. Conversely, “the right arm” represents Sukkos, the embodiment of Hashem’s loving protection. We can see this love in the halachic parameters of a sukkah. While sitting within it, we dwell in the loving embrace of the Divine Presence. As we see from the Gemara, the Torah requires two proper walls while the third can have a width as small as a tefach. The two walls symbolize the upper segment of the arm and the forearm, and the remaining tefach represents the hand. This loving embrace is extended to every Jew, for Hashem’s “right arm” is always extended to accept the sincere repentance of any Jew, no matter what he or she might have done. Many gedolei Yisroel adopt a similarly forgiving attitude toward their fellow Jews, choosing to overlook their flaws and focus instead on the fact that we are all Hashem’s children, and all beloved to Him.

Rav Chaim Brim, zt”l, recounted that the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Rokeach, zt”l, was once walking on Shabbos with his gabbai when they suddenly ran into a group of Jewish men, women, and children. The people were singing as they strolled, and as they passed, the Rebbe turned to his gabbai to forestall any comments. “Hush! Don’t say anything to them—they must be singing because they are enjoying the holy Shabbos.” Rav Chaim explained, “Now, if they really meant to rejoice in the holiness of Shabbos, why didn’t the gabbai see this himself? The truth is that their singing had nothing to do with kedushah at all. But the Belzer Rebbe could only see the good in other Jews. He silenced the gabbai because he didn’t want this spoiled by the other man’s interpretation of their behavior. He also meant to say, “Don’t say a word, they don’t know any better. How can you judge them? On the contrary—say as much good about them as possible!”

[1] Avaneha Barrzel

[2] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Shabbos 7:54