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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Not long after the shooting stopped in Paris last week, a young pianist somehow managed to shlep a piano on his bicycle to the street in front of the Bataclan theatre.  He immediately sat down to play a rendition of John Lennon's Imagine without the accompanying lyrics.  And truth be told, without the lyrics it was a moving experience even for those of us who are familiar with Imagine's socialist utopian psychobabble rant.

Query:  If the International Left can imagine nonsense that makes the Tooth Fairy believable by comparison, why can't we imagine what should actually be reality even if it's not currently answering present at roll call?

And what just might that be?

This morning I received an email which reads as follows:

This past Friday afternoon, Rabbi Yaakov Litman, 44,  and his son Netanel, 18  HY"D, were murdered by Palestinian terrorists who opened fire on their vehicle as they were traveling near Otniel, south of Hevron .

They were on the way to a pre-wedding celebration for one of Litman's daughters, Sarah Techiya.  At their funeral on Har Hamenuchot this past Saturday night, Sarah Techiya cried out:  “Abba,  where have you gone? Who will give me away? I wanted you to be at my wedding!!".

Sarah Techiya and her chatan, Ariel, just announced from her shiva in Kiryat Arba that their wedding will take place, with Hashem's help, on Thursday, Nov. 26. They are inviting all Klal Yisrael to attend their wedding at Binyanei Ha"uma (concert hall in Jerusalem) on that date.  
Here is their invitation:

"Don't make our enemies happy. We fell, we got up, with G-d's help, our wedding will take place next Thursday, 26 November, 14 Kislev, at Binyanei Hauma in Jerusalem.  Am Yisrael is invited to get up from the dust and rejoice with us....
Sarah Techiya and Ariel"

In EmunahSpeak: Nu?, we said:

In the way we deal with others Hashem deals with us.  When we ask Hashem to send us Moshiach when we don’t deserve it are we not asking for the ultimate chesed that He could do for us?  And isn’t the ultimate chesed on our part a chesed shel emes?

And yet, when a family of Torah Jews is slaughtered in their beds or eight Yeshiva bochurim are gunned down in their Yeshiva we seem to be incapable of stepping outside of our label saturated existence long enough to attend the funeral.  It matters not a whit how many people show up because it’s not a numbers game.

It’s all about the mosaic of Torah Jewry.

In Shomayim, three hundred of EVERYBODY at a levayah will trump thirty thousand of only a certain SOMEBODY every time. 

If one looks at the pictures of the levaya of Rabbi Yaakov and Netanel Littman HY"D, one sees (as can be expected) only the usual suspects.

Okay, so we blew another opportunity to morph all the TALK about achdus into the WALK, but this time those Jews who set the compass of their life by the dictates of the Torah won't have to wait around for the next tragedy r"l to get it right.
They can show up at the Chasana!

And what might that accomplish?

Just imagine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thinking About Yenem

In EmunahSpeak: Goin' Ostrich, we pointed out that, as is well known, the Gemara in Yevamos teaches that every disaster that comes upon the world comes only because of Klal Yisroel.  It’s always about us.  It always was and it always will be.

As a proxy for earthquakes and floods we have missiles, but instead of seeing them through the eyes of the Gemara so as to utilize them as a means of bringing us to Teshuva, all we see, to the extent that we trouble ourselves to look, is missiles and the wickedness of the Arabs that rain them down on our heads. 

Rather than see a wake up call, we see a routine, or more accurately we succumb to a routine much akin to garbage collection or bread delivery.

And now, of course, we're talking knives, meat cleavers and whatever else may be readily pulled out of a kitchen draw.  It's the same wake up call and over and above the Teshuva that is always required of us, it calls for an additional response nuanced to the circumstances.

Rabbi Daniel Travis tells us that the only aitza in dealing, on a somewhat pain free basis, with the Chevlei Moshiach that we are experiencing is by means of Talmud Torah and Gemillas Chasodim. 

Talmud Torah we understand, but what about Gemillas Chasodim in this context?   He lets us hear that our interaction with other people is very important and that a person should do whatever he can for others.

The most important form of doing for others is, of course, davening and reciting Tehillim.  It's the ruchniyas equivalent of using laser guided munitions.

But in these times it's not enough.  We should also think about them.

Davening and Tehillim speak to the amelioration of the situation on the ground but it doesn't necessarily connect us to it.  This is a big speed bump because a person should think more about yenem than himself,  and yet, when we hear about a tragedy how much do we think about the other person?

Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld asks this very question on a much less pareve decibel level:

People hear about what's going on and it's terrible.  A couple of minutes later it's "pass the chips please."

It affected you?  It did something to you?  How can you hear that a man who was standing by a bus stop on the way to learning this morning is no longer among the living?  How can you hear that and it doesn't affect you?  How can you hear that  and say, "you know, these things happen," and then go back to breakfast or lunch?

How can it not have an affect on you?

At the very least, our love for a Jew who was attacked r"l, should be no less intense than the hatred of the Arab that wielded the knife

Saturday, October 24, 2015

With Mesiras Nefesh

Settling Eretz Yisroel is only accomplished through yissurim (difficulties).  Or more accurately, settling Eretz Yisroel is only accomplished by way of mesiras nefesh in withstanding the yissurim that Chazal have told us are sure to accompany any such endeavor.

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman tells us that this principle was established for all time from the get go when Yehoshua sent spies (Pinchas and Calev) to reconnoiter Yericho.  They were immediately spotted and the information was relayed to the King of Yericho.

But just forty years before, the meraglim were able to easily travel throughout the Land of Canaan for 40 days without generating any unwanted attention from the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land.

Rabbi Reisman let's us hear in the name of Rav Chaim Kanievski that the principle that settling in Eretz Yisroel is only accomplished through yissurim explains why the original band of spies sent out by Moshe at the instigation of the Klal Yisroel (Jewish nation) had no problems during their sojourn in the Holy Land. That fact in and of itself was proof positive that this group was not destined to settle the Land of Israel.

The second group of meraglim [sent by Yehoshua] was indeed serious about settling in Eretz Yisroel and that is why they immediately encountered serious yissurim such as the threat to their very lives by the agents of the King of Jericho who sought to capture and kill them.

And three thousand years further down the road we have yet to see a fundamental script change.  Only the settings and the props have been sliced and diced over the ensuing centuries but no matter how one scrambles the dictionary, when it comes to settling Eretz Yisroel  it always opens to the word yissurim.

In the context of the last hundred years these yissurim have come to those who settled the Land with great mesiras nefesh in the form of starvation (WW1), malaria (in the draining of the Hula marshes and other swamp lands), riots and massacres (1920, 1920, 1936 et al.), the brink of existential disaster (1948, 1967, 1973), the indiscriminate killings of the Intifadas, the Scud missiles of the Gulf War, the drive by shootings then and now, the stoning of cars, the kidnappings, the Molotov cocktails, the suicide bombings, and the thousands of kassim and ketusha rockets launched against civilian population centers.

And now it's knives and cars running over civilians.

So nu?

The only thing new here is the names of the victims.  It's the same old same old and will continue as such, and until Moshiach puts in an appearance (speedily in our days if not sooner).

The only change will be a variation on the theme, but the script will remain as is, for as we quoted Rabbeinu HaGaon HaGadol Rav Moshe Shapiro shlit"a, in EmunahSpeak: There is No Other Solution, "Whoever thinks of sitting and talking, to negotiate and make agreements as a “solution,” insults the intelligence of a ten year old.

Every generation has been challenged with levels of yissurim that were appropriate to it and with mesiras nefesh it always stayed the course.

No less is required of this one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sackcloth and Ashes

No, we're not talking Tisha B'Av here. For that we would do well to follow the prescription of Reb Gutman Locks:

First off, the destruction happened because Jews hated Jews without reason, so the main, if not sole avoda (service) of the Three Weeks and Nine Days should be an all-out effort by the entire Jewish people to show Jews love without reason. This should be our extra daily effort these days. No mourning and no depression…just extra friendship and love without reason.

Rav Kook z"l, put it all in two words: Ahavas Chinom.

And is not the concept of ahavas chinom part and parcel of the mitzvah of to love you fellow as yourself?

In EmunahSpeak: Perhaps They’re Better Than You, we quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l, as follows:

"The mitzvah of love your fellow Jew applies (even) to a Jew across the world whom you have never seen.”

And the Rebbe didn’t mean that we should feel obligated to send him a check if we should find out that he needed help because the Rebbe’s understanding of love your fellow as yourself wasn’t mortgaged to a touchy feely chesed interpretation.

However much the Rebbe z”l, was wont to darshen in many other areas of Torah, vis á vis the mitzvah of love your fellow as yourself his approach was literally straight down Main Street.

“What kind of love,” he asked?  “Torah contains no idle words.  When it says ‘love your fellow as yourself,’ love means love.  Your fellow means not you, but him.  As yourself?  Just as much as you love yourself.”

So much for mourning over the past, but what about the future?

That's what the sackcloth and ashes are for.

We are told in the third perek of Megillas Esther that Ahasuerus took off his signet ring  and gave it to Haman HaRasha.  He then told Haman that he could do with the Jews as he wished, and with the full power of the monarchy now vested in himself, Haman proceeded to send out the letters that authorized the destruction of all of the Jews.

With that done, the third perek ends with Haman and Ahasuerus sitting down to drink.

Without missing a beat, the fourth perek begins:

And Mordecai knew all that had been done, and Mordecai rent his garments and he donned sackcloth and ashes....

We are in the midst of a Purim story.  The most important nations of the world have agreed to give Iran a clear shot at destroying the Yishuv in Eretz Yisroel, chas v'shalom.

And with the deed done, they have sat down to drink.

So what should our response be?

In EmunahSpeak: Gevalt!, we related that we have it on the good authority of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro that if only one community (minimum of ten adult males) or one synagogue repents Klal Yisroel will be instantly redeemed in their merit.

And as we said in EmunahSpeak: The Yesod of Teshuva, at a minimum, to do Teshuva you have to strip away all of the excuses.  So say goodbye to all of the ifs, buts, and maybes, as you take yourself down to your spiritual socks.

There is no longer a Mordecai to show us the way.  All we have is his example.  The only thing left to us is whatever translates into sackcloth and ashes for our time, each person according to his level.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


This pretty much sums up our collective reaction to that little bit of treason that President Nimrod worked out with the Iranians, yimach shemam.

So what to do?

On December 15, 2012 we posted a piece entitled, There is No Other Solution, in response to the dust up that was taking place in Gaza at that time.  It was the only solution then and even more so now, so we are re-posting it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

There is No Other Solution

Looking Through the Abyss

In the post-mortem that followed the recently concluded Operation Pillar of Cloud, the accuracy and overall effectiveness of the Iron Dome anti-missile system was conceded by virtually everyone, including the Arabs. But there were those who took it a step further past the battlefield results to project a long term deterrent mode of warfare that they claim will stay the course for the State of Israel in its struggle for survival.

Rabbeinu HaGaon HaGadol Rav Moshe Shapiro shlit"a wasn’t one of them.

In a most profound analysis, he took what many find to be a terminally complex situation facing Eretz Yisrael/Klal Yisrael, and reduced it to a problem and a solution that can be comprehended by anyone.

In EmunahSpeak I more often than not quote from one or two seforim or shiurim that I have heard and then use them as building blocks to construct a thesis.  But these are extraordinary times and Rav Moshe has matched the tenor of these times with extraordinary words so I will let the Gadol speak for himself, resigning myself to a few stage directions and sundry comments where appropriate.

The Rav lets us hear flat out that 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 á 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 whoever thinks of sitting and talking, to negotiate and make agreements as a “solution,” insults the intelligence of a ten year old.  These are nothing but words of vanity.

The bottom line of our current and future situation, as Rav Moshe sees it, is that the Creator of the world has placed us between the ultimate rock and hard place with an unsolvable problem. 

Not the sort of line that one would expect Nefesh B’Nefesh to be pushing, to say the least.

If we would be talking about any other People or country their future would be toast because the parameters of their existence are delineated by Teva.  Not so Klal Yisrael.

Rav Shapiro reminds us that the Rambam states clearly that Israel will only be redeemed through Teshuva.  And the Torah already promised that eventually Israel will do Teshuva at the end of the Exile and immediately they will be redeemed.
The Rav is not saying a nice vort, a shmuz or giving a Shabbos Shuva drasho.  He’s speaking in the context of hatzolas nefoshos, and after looking into the aforementioned Rambam he states categorically:

To live like this is impossible and to do something against it is impossible. But we have found a solution; the definite solution!  We learn from this that there is no other solution.  Any thought in the direction of another solution is stupidity!

In Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer we learn that HKB”H will raise up for Klal Yisrael a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman, and they will do Teshuva.  We further learn that Yishmael was given that name because in the future Hakodesh Boruch Hu will hear the sound of Klal Yisrael from what Yishmael will do in the land in the End of Days.

Rav Shapiro tells us that we know exactly what they will do in the Land in the End of Days because we already saw it.  Part of this has passed, some of it is happening in the present, and we have the ability to ensure that it does not occur in the future.  Chazal revealed that this will be the form of conduct, and this is how the Creator of the world will bring us to be redeemed.  Someone will come and force us to repent.  Every thinking person understands that this is the one and only explanation for what is occurring here.  There is no other explanation!  The Creator of the world appointed Yishmael to be that harsh king through whom we need to pray, and the prayer will be accepted.  HKB”H will hear the sound of the cries of the Jewish people. 

And that’s the Halacha as decided by the Rambam: A community, whenever they do Teshuva and cry out with a complete heart, they are answered.

Rav Moshe asks: What do we have to do?  What obligates us from these words?

And he answers: Don’t go after any analysis (in the newspapers etc.) which is spot on advice because the papers are full of solutions for what he has already established to be a problem that is insolvable (in Teva).

The Rav further asks: Should we sit and wait until a king as harsh as Haman will rise against us and then do Teshuva?

Toward where will we bring our shame, asks the Rav, when the day will come and they will ask us, “Where were you? Where were you when everything was so clear?”

What will we answer?  That we were too busy writing a letter to a newspaper or reading it?!

So what should we do?  We are at the End of Days and Yishmael is doing exactly as Chazal wrote.
When a person is brought to Final Judgment, he is asked, “Did you expect salvation?”  Such a question is asked of someone who really wants it.  The problem is that he is not sitting and expecting it, so that is why he is asked this.

I suspect that we will be asked, “Did you want salvation?”  Forget “Did you expect.Did you want it?  Or did you want that it should not come?  This is the first thing.  This is Aleph.  Without this, it is impossible to even begin.

This is the very point we made in EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need where we said that the reason Moshiach is not here is because we want Moshiach now as opposed to we need Moshiach now.  In its terminal passivity, the wanting of Moshiach in and of itself will do nothing to bring the Geula. If he comes, he comes.  If not, we’ll keep on wanting until he does, whereas the need for Moshiach will inevitably push Klal Yisroel in innumerable directions that will create the conditions to bring the Geula ever so closer, speedily in our days.

This is the first thing, says the Rav, We first need to enter reality---not to live in our imagination.  This is the truth and it is very clear.  One who expects salvation will merit it.

Hashem, for his part, is waiting.  But what about us?

Rav Shapiro says that we are preventing: 

We, the ones who accepted the Torah, are preventing the revelation of His Glory in the world.  We are preventing the Redemption of the entire world.  How?  By the fact that we are not waiting.  This fact makes us into murderers.  Not just murderers, but mass-murderers.

Know and understand, says the Rav, that these words are completely clear and serious.  There is no toying around here or room for playing games. We can forgo the multitude of words of encouragement and awakening and another 2 chapters of Tehillim after davening.  This is not what is requested.  What is requested is that we don’t prevent!  We should not prevent!

And then he says a very big chiddush:

If the heads of communities repent or if one community repents, in their merit the entire exile will be gathered in.

One community in Israel, one synagogue.  It is enough with this so that all of us will leave the exile. 

In the Torah we are taught that Hashem agreed to heed Avraham Aveinu’s plea to spare the wicked city of S’dom if ten righteous people could be found therein.

And now that the entire non-Jewish world has taken on a striking resemblance to S’dom we have it on the good authority of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro that if only one community (minimum of ten adult males) or one synagogue repents Klal Yisroel will be instantly redeemed in their merit.

This is already doable because given the thousands of Yidden these days that are focused on growth the existence of a congregation capable of the requisite Teshuva moves from a slight possibility to a definite probability.

But what is the requisite Teshuva?

This we are not told, but what passes as Teshuva for most of us on Erev Yom Kippur isn’t going to hack it.  It could be as we said in EmunahSpeak: The Yesod of Teshuva that To do Teshuva you have to strip away all of the excuses.  So say goodbye to all of the ifs, buts, and maybes, as you take yourself down to your spiritual socks.

Or maybe it goes even deeper than that.

On 11 Tammuz 1941, Rav Elchonon Wasserman HY”D was murdered in Kovno’s Ninth Fort along with a few talmidim and some other Rabbonim.  These were his last words:

In Shomayim it seems that they consider us to be tzaddikim, because we have been chosen to be korbanos for Klal Yisroel. Therefore, we must do Teshuvah now. We don’t have much time. We must keep in mind that we will be better korbonos if we do teshuvah. In this way we will save the Yidden in America. Let no foreign thought enter our minds, Chas V’Shalom, as that will make us pigul, an unfit korban. We are now fulfilling the greatest mitzvah. Yerushalayim was destroyed with fire and will be rebuilt with fire. The same fire that will consume our bodies will one day rebuild Klal Yisrael.

Klal Yisrael has been rebuilt (at least quantitatively) and yet we find ourselves threatened by that same fire.

We can’t say that we are tzaddikim or that we have been chosen as korbanos for our brothers in America or anywhere else.  But as Rav Moshe Shapiro has taught us, we definitely have to do Teshuva and we have to do it now, because we don’t know how much time we have.

Monday, July 13, 2015

From Day One

In EmunahSpeak: A Moral Free Fall we spoke of the immoral diktat that the Supreme Court of the United States handed down in lieu of anything that remotely resembled legal reasoning.  But what should one expect from an ersatz Supreme Court that more closely resembles a traffic court in a Potemkin village?

Then there is the other Supreme Court.  The real one.  In the Beis Din Shel Mala they also have what to say as to this assault on one of the societal pillars that has been in place since day one. 

And while it's true that in EmunahSpeak: A Moral Free Fall we also mentioned as an aside that the behavior (in question) has been universally proscribed since the sixth day of Creation, as far as Man (humankind, us) is concerned it was day one.

But it's more than that.

There's a Medrash that states openly that not only did Hashem speak to Adam in Gan Eden warning him not to eat from the Eitz HaDas, but he also warned him as to the six other mitzvohs that are the foundation of all law and morality for the nations of the world.

This means that before the nachash (snake) sucker punched Eve (Chava), what the Supreme Court just permitted was already proscribed.  Or put another way, Hashem explicitly forbade the activity that was the subject of the Supreme Court's decision before there was even a Yetzer Hora to do so!

Taking it a step further, as we all know, the Torah states that after the six days of Creation Hashem rested on the seventh Day from all the work that he had done.  But in addition, one could say that He would also not rest until he had put into place the parameters by which life should be lived in the world which He created.

And those parameters go beyond the thou shall nots.  As necessary as they are to keep one out of trouble, they do not move the ball down the field.  For that we need be fruitful and multiply.  And the vehicle by which Hashem chose to bring this mitzvah to fruition was marriage, which was also put on the books day one.

A world rife with murder, theft, and even immorality can exist.  But not a world without children.

It doesn't get any more basic than this.

And to back that up, there's another Medrash that states that all of its violence and immorality notwithstanding, what sealed the fate of the generation of the Flood was that whatever passed for a Supreme Court or a legislature in those days also had the chutzpah to redefine what Hashem had defined for all time.

I'm not privy to the buzz in the coffee room in Shomayim any more than the next guy, but we all know how that story ended.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Moral Free Fall

Even occasional readers of EmunahSpeak are cognizant of the fact that it is not a forum for current events.  As the tag line to our masthead proclaims, we are about emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula.  But when an event conspires to threaten all of the above it becomes a relevant topic and grist for an iconoclast's jaundiced eye.
There seems to have been a collective great discovery about a week and half ago that America as we knew it has magically morphed into America as we now know it.  And our current knowledge (as in, now know it) reflects the total moral bankruptcy and degeneration of the ruling class, the fools that voted them into power, and the two generations that have come of age since the 1960s that were educated to believe that perversion is the cherry on the cake of human development.
So where's everyone been anyway?
Why the shock and disbelief?
The immoral diktat that the Supreme Court of the United States handed down in lieu of anything that remotely resembled legal reasoning wasn't a shot across the bow of decency and the rule of law.
We've been this way before.
The legislatures of eleven states, including New York which is home to the largest community of Torah Jews outside of Eretz Yisroel, have already debased  their legitimacy as representatives of the People by enacting statutes legalizing the same criminal activity.  
And what of the Rainbow Coalition that was all the rage in New York about a quarter of a century ago?  What was their agenda?
Color coordination?!
Long before the distinctions between right and wrong were airbrushed out of human memory, language was turned inside out to obfuscate the essence of what was being shoved into our eyeballs. And the road leading from that intended obfuscation to the recent Supreme Court decision is a very short one.
To whit is the word homophobic.  It takes a perfectly balanced and normal individual, and endows him with some kind of neurosis for having the temerity to abhor homosexual behavior.  Being so afflicted, he is given a place next to the racist in the Left's pantheon of evil.
The word gay is even a more successful attempt to cloud and confuse.  Gay implies laughing, back slapping. song, joviality, a pleasant disposition, optimism, and a friendly smile.
The word homosexual conveys the truth.
And what exactly is the truth concerning these people who would stand the entire country on its head for the right to flaunt their wickedness in the face of those yet uncorrupted?  When we strip away the phony terminology, the anti-discrimination statutes, the craven Leftist writers whose every breath reeks of political correctness, and two generations of anti-societal brainwashing we are left with filth.
Their behavior is anti-social and is selfish in the extreme.   And they leave over nothing for the next generation except for the Aids virus which is passed on to a fellow deviate and the bills that society is, that in many cases, forced to pick up for their care.
And not incidentally, their behavior has been universally proscribed since the sixth day of Creation.
So we repeat:  Why the shock and disbelief?
For anyone who has been paying attention to the terminal elasticity of the moral fiber of the country these past fifty years or so should understand that Supreme Court's rendition of Hilchos S'dom is actually the makka b'patish (the final stroke).  It's the death knell of what probably was the grandest attempt at self government in the history of civilization.  If the pain seems to be somewhat more acute at this point in the nation's moral devolution it's only because the knife that was shoved into decency several decades ago was pushed in a little deeper.  But as painful as it may be it remains an old wound.
So where do we go up from here?
More than twenty-five years ago, Judge Robert Bork who is one of the greatest legal minds of our time, wrote in his book, Sodom and Gomorrah, that the subject of the Supreme Court's recent disgrace was the last red line and that when we crossed it we would go into a moral free fall.
So where do we go from here?
We've already reached bottom so it's the only direction left.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So How Do We Wait?

The twelfth of the Rambam's Ikkurim is as follows:

I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.

A number of us actively articulate that We want Moshiach Now, and the majority that is somewhat more reserved on this want still lives very much in anticipation of his coming.  And so we wait and wait and still nothing.

In EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need we pointed out the difference between wants and needs as follows:

Wanting is passive and, as such, it’s not wired for tachlis.  If it so happens that that which was wanted actually comes to be, the fruition of that want was not in response to it.  A need, by contrast, is proactive and, by virtue of its fiery nature, it can (and usually does) clear a path for itself.

If you go through life merely wanting to do, nothing will ever get done.  But if, with a soul on fire, you take that journey needing to do, nothing will ever get in your way.

And so we concluded that the reason Moshiach is not here is because we want Moshiach now as opposed to we need Moshiach now.  In its terminal passivity, the wanting of Moshiach in and of itself will do nothing to bring the Geula. If he comes, he comes.  If not, we’ll keep on wanting until he does, whereas the need for Moshiach will inevitably push Klal Yisroel in innumerable directions that will create the conditions to bring the Geula ever so closer, speedily in our days.

And one of those directions in which it should push us is within ourselves.  Hashem has placed the ticket that will bring Moshiach in our hands.  If we write it He'll punch it.

All we have to do is to prioritize the burning need that we spoke about in EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need, and we begin by taking a second look at the Rambam's words:

I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.

So how do we wait?

Do we wait with the same anticipation and excitement that we manifest for our favorite team to win the world series?  Or do we wait with the same longing that a thirty-four year old girl waits for the phone to ring with a call from a shadchan? 

And if we were to answer yes to these roll calls it still wouldn't cut it because the bottom line here is:  do we wait for Moshiach more than the way we wait for something that we really want whether we need it or not?

And when we do we'll get our ticket punched speedily in our days.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bomb Shelter Achdus

Once again, the sound of the Red Alert sirens can be heard in the south of Israel, and that invariably means a pit stop in the closest bomb shelter.

In EmunahSpeak: Nu?, we quoted HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal's fascinating account of a great assembly of gedolei Torah that met at the home of R. Yisachar Dov of Belz ztvk”l in the city of Rutzfort, Hungary to where the Rebbe had escaped at the outbreak of the war in 1914. He describes how for almost an hour the senior member of the group, R. Moshe Dovid Teitelbaum z”l, av beit din of Madiar-Lapush in Zibanbergen, grandson and foremost disciple of the Yitav Lev z”l, petitioned the Rebbe of Belz to initiate a movement of awaking to repentance which “would undoubtedly influence the entire generation to return their hearts to our Father in Heaven.”  When he finished, the Rebbe answered him briefly and to the point:

“O Rebbe of Lapush, have you concluded your petition?  When Mashiach arrives, the Jews will repent.  In the meantime, it is of utmost importance that the Jews love one another.  One must love even the lowliest Jew as himself.  One must engender unity and keep far away from anything that causes disunity.  The salvation of Israel during times of trouble rests on this.”

On these words Rav Teichtal commented: “Know and understand this, and do not be a pious fool who is quick to find fault with Israel.  Do not cause disunity among those who are united, particularly at a time when the divine attribute of justice hovers over all of Israel.  It is a time of trouble for Ya’akov, may the Merciful One protect us!”

No one who made a difference gave these words the time of day, neither then nor now, a hundred years later.

And that includes funerals, for as we pointed out in the same essay:

In the way we deal with others Hashem deals with us.  When we ask Hashem to send us Moshiach when we don’t deserve it are we not asking for the ultimate chesed that He could do for us?  And isn’t the ultimate chesed on our part a chesed shel emes?

And yet, when a family of Torah Jews is slaughtered in their beds or eight Yeshiva bochurim are gunned down in their Yeshiva we seem to be incapable of stepping outside of our label saturated existence long enough to attend the funeral.  It matters not a whit how many people show up because it’s not a numbers game.

It’s all about the mosaic of Torah Jewry.

In Shomayim, three hundred of EVERYBODY at a levayah will trump thirty thousand of only a certain SOMEBODY every time. 

Hashem wants that there should be achdus by Yidden.  Period.

There's nothing to talk here.  What Hashem wants Hashem gets.  If we can't get it together by means of our own free will, even at a funeral, then Hashem will force it upon us.  He will bring about circumstances that will send us running for the nearest bomb shelter and we won't care who's in there with us because it's a matter of life and death.

Given a choice we would hold our nose and look to hang out elsewhere.  So for that very reason many of us will not be given a choice.  We will be forced into a situation that in better times we would have avoided like the plague, but we'll be okay with that because the bomb shelter, in addition to offering physical protection, is also reputation safe.

We don't have to worry what our ideological comrades will think of us when we come out into the sun sandwiched between two guys sporting knitted kippas.  It's understood that we were forced into this juxtaposition by the exigencies of the moment.

Unfortunately, what others think of us all too often trumps our better instincts.  So when we are confronted by situations in which our participation can't readily be explained away by the exigencies of the moment we take a dive as to our better selves and take a pass on a funeral and the like lest someone think that our presence signifies agreement with the world view of the dearly departed.


Monday, June 1, 2015

It's a Matter of Perspective

The long and short of it is as follows:

After a fruitless search for the someone who could shine some meaning on his life, a certain troubled person who was contemplating suicide finally reached out to Reb Gutman Locks.

The bottom line here is that despite the fact that he acknowledged that his life was good, in that he had everything and more, he felt totally empty inside which in turn led to depression which in turn led to twisted thoughts of jumping the gun on Hashem's calculations by taking early retirement from this world, chas v'shlalom.

So what do you think he answered him?

"It's a wonderful blessing that you became depressed, he said. "

 But he actually said somewhat more than that:  "It's a wonderful blessing that you became depressed when you were not trying to accomplish your spiritual goals in life.  The depression led you to search for something more than you were finding.  Had you not become depressed you might have (G-d forbid) become satisfied with your physical life and never have sought more."

Very nice.  He's finally tripped into the right store, so now what?

If one thing is certain it's that a person who wants to pack out before his time has no understanding of why he's here to begin with.  So Reb Gutman told him:

"Everything in Creation has its unique purpose in having been created what it is.  You are a man, and as such have certain purposes related to being a man.  You are a Jew, and with that comes an additional set of purposes.  To succeed you have to fulfill all of what you have been created to do."

So how does one navigate himself out of the material wasteland?  As Reb Gutman tells it it's a matter of elevation not negation.

"The performance of any mitzvah makes one holy, and the more holy you become the more you elevate yourself form an entirely physical perspective, and the more you gain a spiritual perspective.  The entirely physical perspective causes man to live a life of an animal whose only concern is satisfying its animal inclination.  When you gain a spiritual perspective you do not throw away the physical.

"You elevate it."

"You learn use the physical to reveal the spiritual."

"It's a lifelong avodah, not a one day quick fix.  Each day, again and again, try to remember and help others remember why we're here."

And finally:

"Even the slightest spiritual success removes sorrow, but don't expect a free ride as in a life without speed bumps.  Life is a struggle.  We have to work to remember why we're here and the reward is measured according to the effort."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Where are You Going?

In EmunahSpeak: The Clarity of Context, we said that whatever you see your neighbor do you also did once upon a time or may well do tomorrow with but a slight variation on the theme, not enough to take it out of whatever aveira was the touchstone between your two neshamos at different points in time.

And then we asked:  So why is it that there is a Grand Canyon disconnect between the understanding with which you view your actions and the jaundiced eye that you cast upon the missteps of your friend, sufficient to ignite within you a desire to talk about it?

The thrust of the answer was that while we are well aware of all of the circumstances surrounding our failures we are quite often clueless as to the back story attending the other guy's lapse, with the result being as was stated above.

EmunahSpeak: The Clarity of Context addressed the why of an individual's actions to which we are usually not privy.

But there is also the where, as in where someone is holding, which focuses on one's persona as opposed to one's actions, and while we shouldn't be judging anyone for any reason, most of us tend to fall into the trap of appearances.

In the world of appearances, those who have racked up great accomplishments (i.e. knowledge of all of Shas Bavli, the publication of acclaimed seforim etc.) are presumed to be holding in a very good place whereas those who, at first glance, don't show anything are not.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz z"l comes to tell us that it is not so.

He asks why the twelve spies that Moshe sent out to spy the land, who were all great tzadikim, spiritually crash landed whereas Rachav, who by some accounts was a biblical version of a Tel Aviv street walker, reached a nose bleed height of spiritual development.

Rav Yerucham answers that it all depends on where one's ruchniyas GPS takes him.  If one is going south, even imperceptibly, fuggetaboutit, because we're going eyeball to eyeball with a potential spiritual freefall. 

So much for the spies.

And the flip side is no less true.  If one (Rachav et al.) is heading north in growth mode, even if it is sub-atomic progress that's invisible to the naked eye, it's skies the limit as far as future potential is concerned.

In the world of ruchniyas there is no neutral space where one can run in place or tread water.  It's either up or down and prior accomplishments or baggage don't come along for the ride.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sinning Against Yourself

As Rabbi Daniel Travis tells it, a not yet frum cab driver that he knows on  first name basis complained to him that he often drives seminary girls and teachers in the various seminaries, and all too often the ride is laced with loshon hora from pick up to drop off.

That it is an ongoing Chillul Hashem there's nothing to talk, but what motivates otherwise presumably very religious and respectable people to carry on this way?  Rabbi Travis says that they have no nachas ruach  or peace of mind until they have spoken their loshon hora.

Very nice, but why is this?

He tells us in the name of the Gra (the Vilna Gaon) that anytime a person does something it creates a ruach.  In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin states in Avos that every time you do a mitzvah/aveira you create your Olam Haba/Gehenom.  As you do the mitzvah/aveira it pushes you to do more of the same according to the principle of mitzva gorreres mitzva (one mitzva leads to another mitzva) and aveira gorreres aveira.

The bigger the aveira, the bigger the ruach that is created and consequently, the bigger the taiva (desire) for that aveira. 

Rabbi Travis informs us that the biggest mitzvah a person can possibly involve himself with is Limud HaTorah with the flip side being letzones, devarim b'tailm, and loshon hora which are the opposite from Torah.   And the reason that people constantly repeat loshon hora and get great satisfaction from it is because the ruach that people initially create with their loshon hora gives them a geshmack in coming back for seconds, thirds etc., which for some unfortunates translate into and endless loop.

So at the end of the day it comes out that it's an addiction of sorts because the more a  person speaks loshon hora the more he feels pushed to repeat the performance.  And it's an addiction that one is liable for by virtue of putting himself in such a position to begin with.

Given what we have put forth it should be obvious why the basic principle of loshon hora (or the first line of defense, as it were) is not restraint, for how can we talk about restraint when a person's urge to speak loshon hora is in a certain sense out of control?

The emes is that the numero uno foundation of loshon hora is self-respect.  It's below us to dwell on the negative and you do so by speaking derogatorily about a fellow Jew.

It's a sin against yourself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Greatest Nes

Anyone who knows anything about Jewish prayer is well aware of the fact that Ashrei (Psalm 145) is recited thrice daily.  It is also no secret that Ashrei follows the order of the Aleph/Beis, and accordingly it is a snapshot of teva (nature).  In the same way that Ashrei moves from Alepf to Taf in a linear path teva (seemingly) moves through its established cycles.  

Or so we think, but the Meshech Chochma informs us otherwise.

Teva is actually an accumulation of nes after nes all of which tip toes under our collective radar because it happens all of the time and to our way of looking at things it just seems to be the way things are.

Rav Dessler puts it this way:

The only difference between nes and teva is the frequency of occurrence. 

By us, caterpillars that morph into butterflies every year are a wonderful manifestation of teva, (isn't nature wonderful?!), whereas Ticheyas Hameisim (the rising of the dead) which will be at the end of times is a nes.

Teva is the chosen means by which Hashem controls the world and the irony is that what most people think is the most mundane natural activity that could be considered to be the poster boy for teva is in actually the greatest nes.

The Meshech Chachma tells us that the greatest wonder in the world, which is much greater than any nes, is the inyan (subject) of parnossa (making a living).

Hashem created a world that is self supporting for every creation in it, and within the framework of trillions upon trillions of created things living off each other, Hashem supplies parnossa for the whole of Creation.

This is the bottom line of Ashrei.  It's to internalize that the Hashem rules over the teva from Aleph to Taf.  And that if within the sleight of Hand that we call teva, a person will focus on how Hashem created a world which contains parnossa for everyone, this is the greatest Kovod Shomayim ( honor to Heaven) that can be shown.