Thursday, May 31, 2012

Identifying the Problem

Perhaps, in its own way, the hardest test for every Jew is to own up when we have failed so that we can really change our ways. Rav Yaakov Galinsky, shlit”a, points the challenge inherent in this with his usual biting humor. “In Novardohk they would tell a story of a certain young man who was always late for cheder. Day after day this child was punished, only to be tardy yet again the following day. One day the melamed asked the boy directly. ‘Why are you late every day?’ He answered, ‘Rebbe, my problems are that I am disorganized and forgetful. When I go to sleep each night I drop my clothes wherever and go to bed. The next morning it takes me a long time to get dressed. Is it any wonder that I come late?’ “The melamed offered practical advice. ‘All you need to do is to write a list of precisely where you dropped each article of clothing. The next morning when you wake up, consult the list and you will know exactly where you left your clothes the night before.’ “The boy went home with a lightened heart. The next day the child didn’t come at all. As soon as he was able, the melamed rushed to the young man’s house. He found the boy at his house, fully dressed but obviously very bewildered. “’What happened?’ he asked. “’I did exactly what you said. I wrote down that my tzitzis were in the garden, my shirt on the chair, my pants on the floor etc, I said hamapil with great joy and went to sleep. This morning I woke up and got dressed quickly but I still cannot locate the final item. It says clearly that I am in bed, but I checked my bed—and everywhere else—many times and cannot seem to find myself…’ Rav Yaakov concluded, “This is obviously a joke, but it is so sad. How many of us are looking to find ourselves but cannot seem to do so! The very first question we will be asked in the next world is, ‘Ayekah?’ Where did you go and what did you do? Where did you plant yourself and what happened with you?”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Land of Light and Wisdom

Shortly after the Holocaust, when Rav Yisrael Grossman, zt”l, paid a visit to the Abir Yaakov of Sadigura, zt”l, he was surprised to find him in an exceptionally joyous mood. When the rebbe noticed Rav Grossman’s surprise, he used a parable to explain why he was filled with joy despite the recent tragedy. “Imagine a poor Jew, beaten down and sickly, who has nowhere to even rest his head. If people have mercy and open their homes to him, he will surely be filled with boundless joy from gratitude. “The Jewish people today are likened to this poor man. Although we endured such cruelty which resulted in the murder of millions of Jews, we must never lose sight of the positive. Now that we have entered Eretz Yisrael, which is our homeland, we are exactly like a poor displaced man who has finally found a home. He added, “You might argue that the spiritual level here is not exactly optimal. Nevertheless, the very fact that Hashem has brought us back home after such a tragedy is also enough to make us joyous!” The Kaftor V’ferach, zt”l, learns the greatness of Eretz Yisrael from a statement of our sages. “The Midrash Rabbah explains that the verse, 'וזהב הארץ ההיא טוב'—‘the gold of that land was good,’ refers to the spiritual gold of Torah. ‘There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.’ In Bava Basra we find that the very air of Eretz Yisrael imparts understanding of Torah. In Menachos we see that when Rav Avin told over a teaching to Rav Yirmiyah, his hearer criticized those who live in Bavel saying that they were fools who lived in a place of darkness. This is in contrast with Eretz Yisrael, whose very air is the breath of Hashem.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Perpetual Loss

The Apter Rav, zt”l, was more commonly known as the Ohev Yisrael due to his vast love for his fellow Jews. At his request, his grave is not marked by any honorific other than, “Here lies Admor Ohev Yisrael” and his name. His home was open to anyone and he would always encourage and help those who came to him in any way that he could. A certain merchant in oxen suffered a reverse in his business and traveled to the Ohev Yisrael in the hopes of receiving advice as to how he might improve his situation. “My business was a burgeoning for many years and until recently provided me with an excellent living. Suddenly it took a turn for the worse. Now I have lost all of my money and don’t know what to do…” When the Apter Rav heard about this he groaned and offered excellent practical means for this man to find a parnassah, heaping blessings on his head all the while that things would get better. When he saw that the merchant’s spirits had been revived he changed the direction of his words. Rav Yehoshua Heschel said with bitterness, “You talk about your business troubles but forget completely that a huge tragedy occurred this very day for the entire Jewish people. Today, another day has passed and we have not brought the korban tamid! We have no Beis Hamikdash, no mizbeach and no kohein! You are worried about your oxen and your business. How can it be that our failure to bring the korban hatamid doesn’t bother you?”

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Power of the Shabbos Table

Our sages teach two important halahchos regarding the shulchan. Firstly, the shulchan may only be inaugurated on Shabbos. In addition, the showbreads are also only sanctified if they are placed on the shulchan on Shabbos. Rav Shmuel Aharon Lider, shlit”a, learns a beautiful lesson from this. “We see from this that Shabbos is the time for us to sanctify and educate our children at the table. The best way to be mechanech and sanctify our children is through the zemiros that we sing and the divrei Torah that we say at the Shabbos table.” Rav Shach, zt”l, had a neighbor—a simple baal habayis who was not too learned—whose sons grew to all be exceptional masmidim and great talmidei chachamim. Rav Shach himself lived and breathed Torah all the time, yet his neighbor’s children appeared to surpass his own in certain ways as far as Torah study was concerned. Rav Shach himself commented on what seemed to him at the root of the distinction. “My neighbor spent a long time at the Shabbos table interacting with his children and singing zemiros. I, on the other hand, was always very engrossed in working through a difficult Rambam or some other intricate Torah argument. One should never underestimate the power of filling the children with a spirit of holiness through the simple singing of zemiros and speaking divrei Torah at their own level at the Shabbos table!”

Friday, May 25, 2012

To Uman or not to Uman?

My friend over at A Simple Jew wrote an intriguing post about Uman here. But one man made a comment which is fascinating and requires a post all its own. Anonymous 2 wrote: "We don’t go to Uman for chizuk – Uman is a Tikkun, if you weren’t there for better or worse you didn’t get it. If you were – you did. There are other mitzvos and there is so much we don’t understand about Uman Rosh HaShanah but there are countless stories passed down that prove this point over and over." You put a lot of stock in stories, but we find that one cannot learn from stories unless he knows the reasoning behind the story and that his application is correct (see Bava Basra 130.) Yes, there is a tikkun no matter what. But do you think that one gets the same whether he davens quickly and fritters Rosh Hashanah away as one would if he davened with intensity and comported himself with profound yiras shamayim? How do you suppose Breslover's in Uman always acted on Rosh Hashanah? Do you think they wasted their time? You think the famous: whether you davened, ate or slept or not don't miss Rosh Hashanah, means that one who doesn't feel like davening made the tikkun?? So although one who missed going lost out, who is to say that someone not there got less than one who made it? This is like Rebbe Nachman's teaching that one connected to the tzaddik is higher than one who is not. But do you really think you are greater than Rav Shach? Or the Lubavitcher Rebbe? Rav Wozner? Rav Karelitz? Rav Eliyashev? Who will be greater in the next world? One who served Hashem with mesiras nefesh his entire life, or one who went to Uman but didn't do much else? Rebbe Nachman merely means what I wrote here: that one connected to the tzaddik has an advantage over others. Not that you should go to some Breslover for a brocha over the greatest tzaddik who is not connected to Rebbe Nachman. The Rebbe means that if these great personages connected to the tzaddik, they would have much more. Not that small fry like myself--even supposing I truly am connected-- are on a higher level than giants of Torah and avodah who are not Breslovers. Rav Levi Yitzchak told that the Breslovers would work to bring accomplishments to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. One man would not go to the tziyun until he had completed Shulchan Aruch. This was the custom of Breslover old timers. They recalled that Rebbe Nachman says that he wipes the slate clean, but only if we accept not to do the sin ever again. Does going help and make a huge tikkun part of what we cannot begin to understand, even if one is not on this level. Of course! Is it as strong as one who does profound teshuvah? Of course not! One who goes for a kind of mini-vacation also receives a tikkun. Sadly it is only a tiny fraction of what he could have attained. Yes we have no understanding of the meaning and greatness of Uman. But it is not equivalent to "being saved" for the year chas v'shalom. I have met enough fools who say, "Don't need to learn or do much of anything this year; I went to Uman! Rebbe Nachman and Rav Nosson say so!" I know you don't mean this, but what you write plays right into this crazy philosophy. True Rav Nosson says to be happy the entire year that one merited Uman, no matter what. But that is not equivalent to taking a vacation from any toil in avodas Hashem and learning for a year b'zchus Uman chas v'shalom. Are you really saying that one doesn't need to work to deepen his experience of the tikkun in Uman? That other mitzvos he does,have no bearing on the tikkun he receives? Yes Rebbe Nachman said that for him a great person and a regular guy are both very much missing (another reason why a Rav who sends others has an argument.) He said they are the same to him, yet he also makes a distinction between a great neshamah and a lesser one. Perhaps they are the same since they are both devoted to him and both had their place in the tikkun but did not make it. Maybe if they would have been there Moshiach would have come. Who knows? Do you really think one who killed himself to connect--a tzaddik who worked hard-- and wastrel are the same in terms of this tikkun? Rav Berland, shlita, once said that one who yearns with his whole heart, but doesn't make is more part of the tikkun than one who didn't yearn and was there but not yearning. Perhaps the key to when people are the same in this tikkun is whether they yearn with their entire heart for Hashem and connect with their whole souls. For such people--chasidim of Rebbe Nachman of old-- maybe the tikkun is the same. But how many people who need to be pushed to go feel that way? You wrote: 'The yearning is to say what the Rebbe really means and strive for it, if we don’t get there we have to be mechazek but we don’t start off by saying that it is lav davka that the Rebbe wanted us there – I don’t feel this is the emerser emes."

The Advice of the Tzitzis

A certain man heard that the Zohar calls the mitzvos six hundred and thirteen pieces of advice or “eitzos,” and couldn’t fathom what this implies. When he asked the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, about this he explained that this reveals the greatness of every mitzvah. “This teaches that each and every mitzvah teaches us to overcome our natural state of being sunken in materialism. Through every mitzvah it is possible to attain wondrous elevation. This can be understood in light of the gemara in Menachos 44. There we find the story of a man whose tzitzis ‘hit him in the face.’ And eventually he became a true ba’al teshuvah…” In his last will and testament the Sifsei Tzaddik, zt”l, teaches how to access the guidance contained in mitzvos. “Accustom yourselves to approach every mitzvah as a precious commodity which should make you feel joy—much like a man who finds a fortune. Remember your smallness, and that despite this Hashem has chosen you to serve Him through this mitzvah. Even though He has myriads of angels to serve Him, he prefers the service of Yisrael, the people He has drawn close to Him. It is only fitting that you fulfill the verse, ‘One heart mirrors the other like a face is reflected in water,’ and value each opportunity by serving Hashem with your entire heart. “Every time you don your tallis, you should be filled with profound joy. We attain this by recalling the greatness of this mitzvah, which our Torah reveals gives us the ability to recall all the mitzvos. In Menachos we find that the tzitizis hit a man about to sin on the face and this caused him to ascend from the lowest depths to the highest heights. He felt like he was crushing his entire self by resisting his urge to sin, but in the end he merited a great illumination and became a complete tzaddik. “Every person should beg Hashem that the mitzvah of tzitzis should protect him and his offspring from plummeting into the darkness of this world. One who works on this will eventually feel a huge illumination in the mitzvah of tzitzis.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hundred Blessings

The Imrei Emes, zt”l, would work hard to draw young students closer to Hashem, dedicating a lot of his precious time and many efforts for this cause. These young men would seek the rebbe’s guidance in many areas, talking to him in learning and asking whatever questions they had. Once, when a yeshiva student asked the rebbe how to attain fear of heaven, he received a simple yet profound reply. “You become G-dfearing by being careful how you say the hundred blessings that we say daily. This is clear from the words of the sages in Menachos 43. There we find that regarding the verse, 'מה ה' אלוקיך שואל מעמך כי אם ליראה'—‘What does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you but to fear Him?’ our sages tell us to read מאה instead of מה. They explain that this refers to the one hundred blessings that we say every day. We see that being careful to focus when reciting them is the way to acquire fear of heaven.” Rav Eliyahu Roth, zt”l, would plead with everyone he knew to say the hundred daily blessings aloud with intense focus. Once when he was giving a derashah during the yahrzeit of Rav Shlom’ke of Zvhil, zt”l, he explained the vast importance of this practice. “We must know that when every Jewish soul is required to go down to the material world it resists. Who would want to leave the Source for life as we know it? The only way to convince the neshamah to acquiesce to descend to this physical word is by explaining that it will have one hundred daily opportunities to declare Hashem’s kingship in this world. “These blessings are a way to remind ourselves of the Creator one hundred times a day. From Menachos 43 we can understand that Hashem actually asks us to focus on them since this is the way to attain fear of heaven. We are reminded one hundred times a day that there is a Creator who created everything, and there is nothing but Him.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vigilance to Wear Tzizis

Rav Chaim Shaul Kaufman, zt”l, once gave an incisive lesson regarding tzitzis. “In Menachos 41 we find that an angel pointed out to Rav Katina that he always wore garments which were not obligated in tzitzis. When Rav Katina inquired whether punishment is meted out for this, the angel replied that when Hashem is angry one is punished due to this. The obvious question is why? Why punish for failing to fulfill a voluntary mitzvah? “The answer is that failing to seek out ways to fulfill voluntary positive commandments displays a marked lack of ahavas Hashem. Yet one is not punished for this alone. But when Hashem is angry with him because he deserves punishment for some other reason, he will not be spared. This is mida k’neged mida. He only serves Hashem according to the letter of the law so he gets what he deserves. But one who is careful with voluntary mitzvos goes beyond the letter of the law. Correspondingly Hashem will have hold back the avenging angels even when he deserves punishment.” But the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, explains this differently. “Rashi in Chumash explains that—like the four cups we drink on Pesach—the four corners of tzitzis correspond to the four expressions of redemption mentioned in the verse. The last of these four expressions is 'ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם'—‘and I will take you as My nation;’ a reference to the giving of the Torah. “But there is a fifth expression, 'והבאתי אתכם אל הארץ'—‘and I will bring you to the land.’ The reason we do not have a fifth tzitzis tzitzis tassel corresponding to this term is so we will not mistakenly think that Torah is only obligatory in Eretz Yisrael. “Yet there is a difference between the mitzvah of tzitzis in Eretz Yisrael and outside the land. When we are in exile, which the gemara in Menachos 41 calls a time of anger, we are obligated to go out of our way to wear a four cornered garment which requires tzitzis. Failure to wear tzitizis when we are in exile results in punishment. But when we are redeemed from galus we will not need to be particular to wear a garment obligated in tzitzis.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Questionable Violation

A certain man wished to purchase a new woolen suit in a bargain-priced store. But he wondered whether he was allowed to try it on. After all, what if the garment he chose was shatnez? Surely it was no simple matter to even try on a garment which is shatnez, since clearly wearing shatnez owned by another is forbidden. The fact that it is only questionable shatnez is most likely irrelevant since the halachah is that one must also avoid a questionable violation of a Torah prohibition. But he decided to ask despite his many misgivings. When this question reached the Chochmas Adam, zt”l, he ruled that it is indeed forbidden. “You certainly may not put on a garment which may be shatnez even if one only wants to verify that the garment is the right size. Since the person intends to wear it for that short time, he transgresses the prohibition if it is shatnez. This is equally true regarding people who purchase hats or other garments with the possibility of shatnez.” But the Minchas Yitzchak, zt”l, disputed this conclusion. “According to the authorities that one may wear shatnez to fool a dishonest tax collector since wearing this garment is a פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה—an unavoidable result of a different purpose—just trying on a garment that may be shatnez may also be permitted since this too is merely an unavoidable result of his need to ascertain if the garment is his size. Since we hold that an unavoidable result of an action that may or may not be a prohibition is permitted, it follows that he may try the garment on.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Preparing for Kabalas HaTorah

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, offered a deep explanation of why we count the omer. “The first sefirah was after the Jewish people left Egypt. Its purpose was to purify the Jewish people from spiritual defilement so that they would be fit to receive the Torah. Kabbalists and the standard commentators both explain why we could not receive the Torah immediately after leaving Egypt. We first needed to count seven weeks to purify us from the defilement of Egypt. “But Hashem knew that we would fall into the sin of the golden calf soon after we received the Torah. He therefore commanded us to celebrate Pesach for all generations. The day after Pesach we are to bring the omer which is composed of animal feed. We then count forty-nine days and bring the two loaves which are food for humans on Shavuos. He explained, “We bring the omer to symbolize the first step of purity: recognizing in what manner we are still drawn after animal desires that compel us to act without understanding. We then begin to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah through deep contemplation and by rectifying our actions. Since the time we left Egypt, the days between Pesach and Shavuos have become a special period to fix negative character traits, attain purity and ascend to ever higher levels. Perhaps this is why, according to Rav Yochanan ben Nuri, the main judgment in Gehinom is between Pesach and Shavuos. Since this time is set aside for deep change it is also the time when souls are punished for failing to use this time properly. He concluded, “Chassidim and anshei mase live lives of completion; not one instant of their day is wasted. During this time even regular people work on themselves. We are adjured to recognize our lowliness and use these days for elevation. We count each day, considering how we have used our time and how many of these precious days remain until kabbalas haTorah. We must make a plan and set goals that we will work to attain during the remaining days so that we will be worthy of receiving the Torah.”

“Go and See…”

The Sifsei Tzaddik, zt”l, offered a profound explanation of a famous statement of our sages. “We often find in the gemara the statement, פוק חזי מאי עמא דבר—‘Go and see what people are doing.’ Yet we may well wonder what this means. Should we then look to the simple and uneducated or those without much yiras shamayim to learn how we should act? “The answer is that this refers to looking at the actions of those who are above the simple folk. They are called עם to show that they are cherished, as we find in the verse, 'עמי זכור נא מה יעץ'—‘My people, please remember what he advised.’ He continued, “This is also the meaning of the mishnah in Avos, 'איזהו דרך ישרה שיבור לו האדם כל שהוא תפארת לעושיה ותפארת לו מן האדם'. This seems very difficult. Should we then keep Torah to impress others? The meaning of this mishnah is that if one is unsure what to do he should follow what is accepted practice since this is a sign that this is the way of Hashem. Conversely, the way that is not agreeable to the informed klal is generally the path which leads to sin. The reason why what the opinion of the majority do is so important is because the rabim do not err, as we find in the masores recorded by the Teshuvos HaRan and brought in the Beis Yosef. This is why the verse writes, 'אחרי רבים להטות'. In every place the halachah is like the majority since it is highly unlikely that they err. He concluded, “This is also why we find thatמנהג ישראל תורה הוא . This means that through looking at the custom of the faithful Jewish people we can lean to fear Hashem just as we do from looking at the Torah—the custom is one with the Torah.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Convalescence and Full Recovery

The Avnei Nezer, zt”l, provides a deep explanation of Pesach, Sefirah and Shavuos. “The Zohar explains why we absolutely refrain from chometz on Pesach, yet we specifically bring an offering of chometz on Shavuos. This can be understood with a parable of a king whose only son was very sick. The doctors said that the king’s son should eat a healing diet to help him recover. But when the son became well again, there was no need for him to confine himself to eating according to such a restricted plan. The Avnei Nezer explained, “The same is true regarding chometz. On Pesach we are ill and must eat matzah to heal us. But after the splitting of the sea, we are no longer vulnerable to chometz and can now bring it up on the altar. We can understand this in view of the words of the Ramban in Devarim 29:17. As is well known, chometz is likened to the yetzer hara. On Pesach we are likened to an ill person who cannot absorb foods that are difficult to digest. By Shavuos we are so completely recovered that we can serve Hashem with our yetzer hara. “In light of this we understand why the Lechem Hapanim—which was set up on Shabbos—must be matzah and may not be chametz. Although Shabbos is higher than Shavuos, it has a dual purpose. It is the pinnacle of the week that passed. But it is also the source of the blessings for the week to come, as we find in the Zohar. The showbread is set up on Shabbos to stay until the next week and is the source of material bounty for the next week, as the Ramban writes in Parshas Terumah. Clearly, this does not allude to the first aspect of completion of the week gone by. Lechem Hapanim, in its bearing of the blessing of the coming week, must be matzah to signify that it represents a new beginning which has not yet come to culmination. Shavuos is the culmination of Pesach and the Sefirah. Since it alludes to completion, we bring the offering of the two breads specifically from chometz.”

The Sign of Tefillin

Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spector, zt”l, was the undisputed leader of all religious Jews during his times, and also enjoyed the respect and admiration of many non-Jewish noblemen of his day. Yet he had his share of enemies who sought to diminish his stature in whatever way they could. The people who wanted to destroy him were not above resorting to less than honest means. Rav Yitzcahk Elchonon would remove his tefillin at the end of davening each day—even when it was the custom in his country to say a misheberach for the king after davening, he would immediately remove his tefillin before they said this prayer. His enemies felt that they had finally found the opportunity to make him trouble, since there were numerous witnesses to this “offence,” which they thought could not be disputed or explained away. They filed a complaint with the king that Rabbi Spector clearly did not respect the monarch since he was brazen enough to remove his tefiljlin before praying for his welfare. This was obviously a sign that, to him, the davening was complete and the extra prayer was an unnecessary addition. When the rav was confronted about why he removed his tefillin before the prayer he based his reply on a famous halacha. “Quite the contrary, I remove my tefillin as a sign of my great respect and awe for our beloved monarch. The Talmud teaches that we do not wear tefillin on Shabbos or Yom Tov due to the special character of the day. Similarly, I remove my tefillin before the prayer for the king because to me this day is likened to Shabbos and Yom Tov when we do not wear tefillin due to our great respect and awe!”

Friday, May 18, 2012

“Why Did You Shame My Tefillin?”

There is a famous machlokes between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam regarding the proper position of the last two parshios of tefillin. According to Rashi the third parshah is שמע ישראל followed by והיה אם שמוע. Rabbeinu Tam holds that והיה אם שמוע is the third parshah followed by שמע ישראל. Since the Shulchan Aruch writes that a G-dfearing person will wear both sets of tefillin, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, wondered whether he should wear both pairs. When the Vilna Gaon advised that people should wear specifically Rashi tefillin the entire day, Rav Chaim asked him about tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. “Since מר wears tefillin all day, it is understandable why he wears specifically Rashi since to put on Rabbeinu Tam even for a short time means missing that amount of time with Rashi tefillin which are the halachah. But someone like me who anyway goes for hours every day without tefillin should probably wear Rabbeinu Tam as prescribed by the Shulchan Aruch…” But the Vilna Gaon disagreed. “If so, you will need to wear sixty-four pairs of tefillin to fulfill this mitzvah according to all of the existing varieties of opinion…” Rav Chaim protested, “Yet in the Zohar we find that Rabbeinu Tam tefillin relate to the world to come?” The Vilna Gaon rejected this claim as well. “Firstly, that is not the pshat in the Zohar. Secondly, let one whose entire purpose in life is to attain the world to come wear them…” From that day on, Rav Chaim stopped wearing Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. Interestingly, towards the end of his life the Chofetz Chaim began to wear Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. When asked why he took this on he replied, “I am planning for the near future when I will go to the olam haemes. When there I will meet Rabbeinu Tam and he will likely ask, ‘Yisrael Meir. You learned an abundance of my Tosafos and you found my reasoning sound, imparting much vitality. Why did you shame my tefillin?’”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Damasek Eliezer of Vizhnitz, zt”l, was very particular that the bochurim in his yeshiva should always kiss the mezuzah as they entered and exited a room. When asked why, he explained: “It is well known that when a lower ranking soldier encounters an officer he must salute him to show that he is under his authority. If a soldier refuses to do so for any reason he is in danger of being severely punished since he refused to recognize the officer’s rank. “The rule is that the supernal kingdom is patterned after earthly kingship. Since the mezuzah declares Hashem’s unity and Hashem sits outside and guards us through the mezuzah, we must be fastidious to kiss it when we enter or leave a room. In this manner we show that we accept Hashem’s kingship on ourselves.” Interestingly, the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, appointed messengers to go from door to door and check each house’s mezuzos to ensure they were really kosher. Since he used money slated for the orphans under his care for this as well, many people wondered how this was permitted. After all, the halachah is that money slated for orphans should not be used for other purposes. When Rav Bentzion Yadler, zt”l, asked the Maharil Diskin about this, he explained, “The verse states that we should put mezuzos on our doors 'למען ירבו ימיכם'. So if I ensure that people’s mezuzos are kosher, the parents will live longer and there will be fewer orphans. Obviously, this is permitted from the money slated for orphans since the less orphans there the more money there is for each one’s use!”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Even Eliyahu…

The Satmar Rav, zt”l, teaches a powerful lesson from a surprising statement of our sages. “In Menachos 32 we find that if Eliyahu were to come and say that we may not use a soft shoe to do chalitzah we would not heed him since the custom is to use a soft shoe. This seems very difficult to understand. We would not listen to Eliyahu since our custom of many centuries should not be changed, and it would be wrong for him to come and try to change it. Yet if it should not be changed, why would Eliyahu say that we should change it? Surely he would refrain from telling us to do anything incorrect. So what is the point of this statement? Surely not merely to record a scenario that could never happen? “The answer is that the gemara also knew that Eliyahu would never tell us such a thing. But it also understood that even a gadol hador could err and believe that the custom is in error. Of course the entire Jewish world would likely follow this gadol, even if he is mistaken. It is to avoid such an error that the gemara writes that we would not even believe Eliyahu if he told us to change an old custom that was established by the consensus of gedolei Yisrael. “For this reason the gemara puts it unequivocally that we would believe no one, not even Eliyahu. This way even a gadol hador who errs won’t mislead people who have learned this lesson. If one considers this he will understand much that cannot be written explicitly…”