emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Wake up Call

That’s how HaRav HaGaon Moshe Sternbuch sees the current crisis in Eretz Yisroel, so it would behoove us to give it a serious look through his eyes.

For those Rip Van Winkles amongst us who have been sleeping through the last several weeks the operative word here is miracles. From the get go Rav Sternbuch makes it very clear that everything we are seeing are miracles and nothing but miracles with nary a shmeck of teva in sight.  

And he’s not alone.  Apparently, one of the top people in the Hamas leadership sees what Rav Moshe sees.  When asked by CNN why his missiles never seemed to hit anything of substance he answered that all of their missiles are tested and that those (barbarians) who launch them are experts, but their G-d (our G-d) stops them.  Then he was asked the obvious question:

“If you understand that their G-d is protecting them why do you keep launching missiles?”

“We’re probing for a weak moment,” he answered, “when their G-d doesn’t favor them.”

From this answer we have to understand that in addition to everything else that we’re up against in relation to Hamas (may they be blotted out) both in terms of what we perceive to be teva and from what we will soon hear from Rav Moshe, we’re also eyeball to eyeball with the wickedness of Bil’am Ha Rasha.

Query:  So if even Hamas understands what’s going down in their latest attempt to destroy us why don’t we?

Hashem is talking to us and the best most of us can do is to remark that a certain missile that failed to explode in a house full of people was a nes, and we say it with the same kavana as if we were saying what a lucky break that was.

Rav Sternbuch says that we are taking the Iron Dome for granted, in that we are relying on it to protect the population from incoming missiles and if we put our trust in it, it won’t, for as we quoted HaRav HaGaon Moshe Shapiro in EmunahSpeak: There is No Other Solution,.…according to teva (natural means) we are in a problem that has no possibility of a solution, period.  He says further that a solution that is similar to the “solution,” (with as many double quotes as we can put there) that we recently experienced vis √° vis the Iron Dome and the pin point surgical strikes by which the IAF took out 1500 Hamas launch sites, may last once or twice, but this is not a solution.
And as we said in EmunahSpeak: So Who are You Relying on… The avodah of bitachon is to train oneself to rely only on Hashem. 

Not on our rockets.

The Iron Dome rockets that shoot down the Hamas missiles, the missiles that don’t explode in shuls and houses, and those that fall into open fields are all the same nes.

Rav Moshe Sterbuch tells us that the Brisker Rav’s real gadlus was not his lomdus as great as it was.  It was his Emunah.  If we had that level of Emunah we would be going out of our minds right now. We would be higher than on Purim.

The Rav makes it clear that we are being enveloped by nissim day and night, and that we are required to take five minutes a day to intensely focus on the fact that Hashem is both knocking the missiles out of the sky and scattering the rest to the four winds.  He lets us hear that Hashem has opened all of the Sharei Rachamim of Shomayim to deflect the missiles from harming Klal Yisroel and if we don’t recognize this we are sinners.

And it’s not enough that we recognize and intensely focus on these nissim.  We are obligated to speak about them also.  They should be the tog taiglach of our daily conversation.

Truth be told, Hashem is not talking to us.  As per Rav Moshe, He is screaming, for these nissim are in actuality a Tochacha (Divine rebuke), a wake up call to show us that we really deserve to be whacked.

This is serious stuff.

If we heed the call of Rav Moshe and get with the program, then the Hamas missiles and all those that Hezbollah has waiting in the bull pen will continue to be rendered harmless because Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dollar for Dollar

My flight was supposed to leave Israel Thursday morning at 10:40 A.M.  To be on it would require me to wake up at approximately 3:00 A.M. give or take a few assaults on the snooze button, daven Vasikin and leave immediately for Ben Gurion Airport in order to beat the rush hour traffic.

To compound things, the reliable driver who had picked me up at the airport upon my arrival told me that he would be in England visiting his parents on the day that I was scheduled to return to the States, and therefore wouldn’t be available to take me.  So given the fact that I had been lazily waking up between 5:15 A.M. and 5:45 A.M. during my stay in Israel, I was worried that I might sleep through the alarm that would be set to 3:00 A.M. and/or that the yet to be designated substitute driver might not show up on time.

After passively suffering for a week over the downside implications inherent in a flight leaving at this time in the morning I finally decided to take action by changing the flight from Thursday at 10:40 A.M. to Thursday at 12 :40 A.M.  

My anxiety evaporated in an instant.  Instead of saying goodbye to everyone and then go to sleep at 9:30 P. M. Wednesday night, I would now be saying goodbye to everyone and then leave for the airport at 9:30 P.M.  Aside from the $200 I paid to change the ticket there didn’t appear to be any downside to my switcharoo.

Or so I thought.

That Hashem thought otherwise was already apparent by early Wednesday morning. 

What I had thought was merely a clean wash was actually more akin to a debit balance against me in terms of zilzul the kovod (lack of respect) of Eretz Yisroel.  While my cheshbon as to the fact that there would be no social time lost with family in pushing up the flight by ten hours was correct, I had forgotten that I wasn’t dealing with just any ten hours.

We’re talking here about ten hours in Eretz Yisroel, not the Bronx.

I had spent $200 to walk away from ten hours in Eretz Yisroel plus the opportunity to daven with a vasikin minyan in Yerushalayim.  So on Wednesday, the morning after changing the ticket, I discovered that all of my money was missing from my wallet.

How it happened I still can’t figure out, but the why of it is very clear to me.  It was $200.  Midda keneged midda (measure for measure), dollar for dollar for the $200 I spent to walk out on the kedusha of Eretz Yisroel.

Moreover, the money was in twenties; ten twenty dollar bills.  One twenty for each hour that I was in hurry to return to shmutz l’aretz.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Heads and Tales

To say that it’s been a difficult week already rises to the level of a clich√©.

Within days of each other we buried three of our kedoshim, we were on the receiving end of a group blood libel, and now watch in shock and horror as some of our youth stand accused of acting like Arabs.

Yet, from all of this darkness emerges a ray or two of something brighter.

Here are the amazing words of Rav Yaakov Roza Shlit"a, the rabbi of the Zaka Organization, which he gave over in his role as rabbi of the Pathological Institute in the Institute for Law Health in Abu Kabir in reference to the condition of the bodies of the three martyred kedoshim:

It appears we can add regarding the merit the boys had for 18 days.  For the first time in my life, I came across such an occurrence where bodies that were lying in the field in hot weather for 18 days and no worms were found on their bodies. I can attest that on the 3 Kedoshim, no maggots overtook them. Besides the gunshot wounds, there were no signs of abuse or injuries. According to the doctors at the Institute for Law Health, there is no scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

And there was the plane ride that Rabbi Shay Shachter took to Eretz Yisroel, to represent the White Shul of Far Rockaway New York as its shliach tzibbur, for the mitzvah of nichum avilim. In a flight that can be modestly described as one long series of amazing occurrences, one, in particular, jumps out at me.  Rabbi Shachter tells us that:

In the middle of our flight, the stewardess began to speak with me, and we got into a very pleasant conversation. She then inquired when I was planning to return back to the States, and I said I would only be staying until after Shabbos, and I would then be returning home. She said "just four days? What kind of trip is that?" And I proceeded to tell her that I was sent by our shul to visit the three respective families, to deliver our beautiful letters, and to let them know that the affection of their beloved brothers and sisters in America, knows no bounds.

She immediately began to cry uncontrollably, and said, this kehillah of yours is something unique and something incredibly special. For you to get on the flight is no big deal; but this speaks volumes about your kehillah, that this is what they feel is important. This is where their hearts are, and this is what is occupying their minds - how incredible!

So the stewardess proceeds to make an announcement in tears, to a plane filled almost to capacity with Birthright groups; "Rabotai! We have on our plane, a shliach mitzvah! Come meet a Rabbi who was sent by his Kehillah to perform the great mitzvah of nichum aveilim, for those whom they feel are their own brothers and sisters! Our plane is safe because we have a shliach mitzvah on board with us!"

This led to a whole pandemonium, and after I finally got to sit down again, the young man next to me informs me that he is 26 years old, from Seattle Washington; he works in a national zoo, and is going to Israel for his first time.

He then proceeds to tell me that he was so inspired by our kehillah, and that he would like to borrow my Tallis to do a mitzvah that he has not done since his Bar mitzvah celebration (at age 16) in memory of the three precious neshamos.

I gladly gave him my tallis and then proceeded to ask him if he knew how to recite a bracha. He said "sure I do", and went on to take out a small piece of paper from his pocket, and recited the "Tefillas Haderech". This was the one and only Hebrew Bracha that he was familiar with, so he decided to recite it as well on the tallis.

He then asked to borrow my tefillin as well, which was followed by a long conversation with the other members of the plane, who were all taking pictures of this highly unusual scene.

But that wasn't it; after a few minutes he turns to me and says "Rabbi, I am so inspired, but in Seattle Washington we don't have these boxes. But I want to continue to do something special for these three precious souls, even after I return home. So what would you suggest I do?"

I was in complete shock, and overwhelmed with emotion, so someone in the next row turns to this tattooed and pierced young man and says, "Sweet Jew, if you promise me you will try and wear these Tefillin each and every day, I promise I will have a pair sent by FedEx to your home in Seattle Washington by the time you get back from Israel!" They then exchanged phone numbers and information, and the deal was done.

That was probably the high point, achdus wise, of the wave much of Klal Yisroel had been riding these past three anguish ridden weeks, but high points spell nothing but trouble for the Satan so he proceeded to pop the achdus bubble with a reminder why we’re all in Golus to begin with as we headed to the low point by way of the following remarks that were publicly made shortly after the funerals:

Who gave them a heter to live in a place like that, where they were living among known murderers?  Is there no place in Israel to live and to learn other than in a place of tremendous danger?

Who gave them permission for themselves and for their children to live and to learn Torah in the midst of the lion’s den?  To put their lives at risk, and the lives of their families at risk?  It is all because of the yetzer hara and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel.  It is Zionism for the mehadrin min hamehadrin.”

It is incumbent upon us to say that these parents are guilty.  They caused the deaths of their sons and they must do teshuva for their actions.”

Both the high and low points are two sides of the same coin.  The tzaddik who promised to buy a pair of tefillin for the not yet observant Jew from Seattle was a Satmar Chossid.  He’s heads.  The remarks that rang somewhat hollow in terms of Ahavas Yisroel were made by someone also associated with the same chassidus.  That was tails.
One of the ways that ideology is defined is: as a body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc. that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

When any given ideology ceases to be a guide, but rather morphs into a filter through which all of life is viewed, by definition it also ceases to be an ideology.

It has become instead an ideological straight jacket.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The One-Liner

Reb Gutman Locks is a very busy man. 

He can be readily found at the Kosel Hamaravi doing his tefillin thing.  And if you look like you’re Jewish and off the reservation as far as the aforementioned tefillin are concerned, Reb Gutman Locks will more likely than not readily find you.

Tefillin thing?

Reb Gutman spends a lion’s share of his waking hours enabling his co-religionists in spiritual need to fulfill the mitzvah of laying tefillin, if but what once in their lives.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  For the fortunate few it leads to a life time commitment.  

Just ask Reb Gutman Locks.

A few decades ago he made his first visit to the Kosel searching for who knows what, but what he found instead was a Chabadnik who asked him if he would like to put on tefillin.

But rather than simply walk off into the sunset with the mitzvah of tefillin already in the past tense as applied to him, he allowed it to become the turning point of his life and he’s been returning the favor ever since by bringing this mitzvah to literally tens of thousands of others.  

For the why of it all one need go no further than a comment that he recently posted on Mystical Paths, the blog to which he regularly contributes, where he wrote as follows:

“If I had to choose just one line of advice that best sums up what a person should do with his or her life, I would quote the Rebbe Maharash.  If you focus only on this line of advice your entire life, you will die with a smile on your face, and you will keep smiling in the World to Come, too.

“Try it for a few days and you will see what I mean.

“‘Everyone ought to know the route to the supernal chambers, though that is not essential.  All you need is the main thing; to help your fellow with a complete heart and with sensitivity, to take pleasure in doing another person a favor.’

And he was talking about a lot less than the great mitzvah of tefillin.