Friday, November 25, 2011

Inspiration for Parshas Toldos

You can download three short shiurim on parshas Toldos here.
Two are of Reb Nosson's teachings on the parsha, and one "taste of Zohar" for the week.
Gut Shabbos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exertion for Torah

Rav Yisrael Freidman, shlit”a, encouraged those who have a hard time toiling in Torah with the following words. “Our sages tell us that if someone claims that he has found Torah,יגעת ומצאתי , believe him. But if he claims that he has attained the Torah without toil, don’t believe him. Yet not everyone is able to learn Torah in an analytical or deep manner. How can such people acquire Torah which can only be attained through the expenditure of much effort?
“The answer to this question can be extracted from the gemara in Menachos 7. There we find that when Avimi forgot Meseches Menachos he went to Rav Chisda to learn it again. The gemara asks why he didn’t call Rav Chisda to come to him? It replies that Avimi understood that if he went to Rav Chisda the effort he put forth going to Rav Chisda would aid him in relearning the forgotten tractate. Rashi explains that this is because of יגעתי ומצאתי תאמין. We see that there is another way to obtain Torah which can be done by anyone: working hard by going out of one’s way to learn whenever possible and as well as he can.
“This is why Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, zt”l, and other greats where always particular to get the seforim necessary for the shiur themselves. They knew that even the exertion of getting up and obtaining a necessary sefer would help them to achieve more and deeper understanding of Torah.”
Rav Shamai Ginsburg, zt”l, made a similar comment to someone who expressed regret that some of his questions to the Rav had embarrassed him publicly. “I am actually glad of this, since shame is an excellent way to attain more success in learning, as we find in Menachos 7...”

Monday, November 21, 2011

To Drink or not to Drink?

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, taught that one should avoid alcohol at all times. He explained that many major failures in history happened due to wine. From Adam to Noach and beyond, the underlying problem was alcohol. The only exceptions to this iron rule are Shabbos and Moadim, when one should drink "a little." And Purim when one should fulfill the halacha to drink abundantly.
Rebbe Nachman explains that a true tzaddik elevates the wine he drinks and rectifies the world by drinking; nevertheless most who drink at Chasidic gatherings would be better off abstaining. Although some great authorities argued with this contention-- Bnei Machshavah Tovah is in favor of drinking at Chasidic gatherings as a means of uplifting one's spirits--others emphatically agreed with Rebbe Nachman.
Rav Yeshayah of Prague, zt”l, was once sitting at a tisch surrounded by his chassidim. Together, they partook of a seduas mitzvah where they discussed inspiring divrei Torah at length. Naturally, this sublime experience sparked a lot of enthusiasm.
“Let’s send someone to bring wine,” a certain older chassid declared.
Rav Yeshayah immediately discouraged this notion. “Our sages teach that sleep in the morning sleep and wine in the afternoon take a person out of the world.”
“But don’t our sages also teach that one who gives wine to a talmid chacham is like one who pours libations on the altar?” the old man piously declaimed.
But Rav Yeshayah did not feel that this was appropriate. “I never understood the words of our sages at the end of Sotah. There we find that in the times proceeding Moshiach’s arrival, grape vines will give their fruit yet wine will be expensive. If there is an abundance of grapes, why is wine costly?
“But now I understand. Since we also find that chutzpah will be rampant in the times immediately preceding the arrival of Moshiach, every person will think that his rebbe is like a talmid chacham discussed in the gemara and buy wine to fill his throat and those of his followers. With such a great demand for wine, it’s no wonder that it will be costly!”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rebuke that Will be Heard

The author of the Glilei Zahav explains the importance of proper rebuke. “A person with the ability to protest his friend’s wrongdoings and fails to do so is considered to have done these sins himself, as our sages tell us in Shabbos. This halachah is alluded to in the verse, 'אם לוא יגיד ונשא עונו'—‘If one fails to tell, he will bear his sin.’ Although literally this verse discusses one who refuses to testify on behalf of his friend, we can also explain this in terms of rebuke: Failing to give rebuke to another makes one responsible. One is considered to have done the sin if he had the power to prevent it but couldn’t be bothered to take the sinner to task.
He added, “In this vein we can also explain the extra vav in the word לוא, which indicates ‘to him.’ This teaches that one is only held responsible if he failed to give rebuke to a person who may be moved to change his ways. Regarding one who is certain to ignore rebuke our sages say that there is a mitzvah not say what he knows will not be accepted.”
Those who learned at Yeshivas Lomza when Rav Eliyahu Dushnitzer, zt”l, was mashgiach, were astounded by the sensitive manner in which he gave the students rebuke. He was always good-natured and, with a sweet smile on his face, would gently explain where the student had erred.
“He wouldn’t leave before saying to the young man, “Please forgive me.”
Naturally this would surprise the bochur. After all, why should the Mashgiach apologize?
But the bochur was not left to puzzle this over for long. “Surely you wonder why I ask your pardon. Our sages tell us that just as it is a mitzvah to offer rebuke where it will be heard, it is also a mitzvah to refrain from saying what will not be accepted. I therefore apologize if, chas v’shalom, you are in the second category. Not only did I fail to fulfill the mitzvah, I also caused you unnecessary pain. For this, I apologize.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Taste of Zohar on the Parshah

Here is an audio shiur on the Zohar's discussion of Parshas Chayei Sora. The lesson covers the nature of Ma'aras Hamachpelah, and a comparison of Chevron and Yerushalayim.
Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Actions Speak for Themselves

A certain doctor called Rav Yitzchak Silberstein, shlit”a, with a fascinating question. He explained that he was about to operate on a new immigrant to Israel who was definitely Jewish but, strangely, did not have a bris. His parents had been very liberal and although they loved the land, they did not approve of the “blemish” of making a bris. “Halachically, can I make him a bris during the main procedure without his approval ahead of time?” asked the surgeon.
Rav Silberstein explained that this was only permitted if he was not planning to arrange a bris. “Also, you must first do the bris, since the other operation will place him in the category of a sick person who may not be circumcised until he is well.”
Despite the immense risk, the doctor decided to circumcise his amiable patient.
When the patient awoke and the doctor explained what he had done, the immigrant reacted in an amazing manner. “I must say that although I have never seriously entertained having a bris, now that it has been done I feel much more love for G-d and a powerful desire to fulfill mitzvos.” He added, “I also feel overpowered with gratitude towards the kind doctor who enabled me to feel all this!”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hashem’s Elect

The Chovos Halevavos, zt”l, writes that there are many conditions that must be fulfilled before one attains genuine love of Hashem. One of these prerequisites is that one is submissive before those who fear Hashem and who are His elect.
He adds, “No generation or country is devoid of an appropriate teacher to impart avodas Hashem.
The Alter of Kelm., zt”l, takes this a step further, “Even if one is truly a scholar and tzaddik, if he is in disagreement with the sages of the generation he will not be accepted on high either. And this is true even if he happens to be right and they are wrong.”
When Rav Tzvi Broide, zt”l, from Salant, passed away, Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, commented, “Some hold that each person’s heavenly tribunal that serves his final judgment comprises the departed sages of his generation. According to this, people must be especially careful in hilchos Shabbos, since Rav Tzvi was very strict in hilchos Shabbos...”
The Alter of Kelm, made a similar statement when Rav Yisrael Salanter passed away. “As is well known Rav Yisrael Salanter was very particular about middos; indeed this made up most of what he spoke about. It follows that now that he has joined the heavenly courts, people should make correcting bad middos a big priority in their lives.”
In the words of the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, “In every generation the world is run based on a particular midah. All of their actions and the way they comport themselves is according to this middah.”