"Where does it say that you have a contract with G-d to have an easy life?"

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"Failure is not the enemy of success; it is its prerequisite."

Rabbi Nosson Scherman


31 Mar 2009

When in doubt, be silent

The other day, while studying the two Halachos a day of shemirat halashon in the book "Guard your Tongue" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, I came across some good advice if a person finds himself in a situation in which he is unsure whether to say something. Chapter 8 halacha 8 states, "At times a person finds himself in a quandary: Is the situation at hand one of those exceptions when it is not only permitted but obligatory to speak what ordinarily would be considered loshon hora? There is a simple formula that solves doubtful cases.When you will be summoned before the Divine Court the doubtful case will be considered. If the Court decides that you should have spoken instead of remaining silent, you will easily be able to exonerate yourself. But, if it decides that you should have kept quiet, and you spoke, you will find yourself in a very difficult position. The formula? When in doubt, silence is the best policy."
The yeshiva world posted the following regarding a problem with a restaurant's hashgacha.
"Rav Teitelbaum also felt the need to publicize the following: The individuals who witnessed the employee carrying in the hotdogs did the right thing by asking questions, but the way in which it was done is unacceptable.
The Halacha requires them to question the Baal Din, but not to spread rumors across the community before allowing the Rav Hamachshir to conduct his investigation....
“There are many lessons to be learned from this incident, a prominent Rov told YWN. Perhaps we should take this as a lesson to demand that a Mashgiach Timidi be installed in every establishment. But most important, is the need for each and every Jew to learn the Halachas of Shmiras Halashon, and find out how one is supposed to react in such a situation according to Halacha, and not instinct.”

Incalculable damage is done when people fail to keep quiet. A man's parnassah can be wiped out, Israeli soldiers can have their reputations ruined and morale lowered because of the rush by some newspapers to print scurrilous stories, not based on truths, but on rumors and hearsay.
Let's all take out a sefer from the Chofetz Chaim and let's think before we speak.

30 Mar 2009

Nobody on whom to rely except for our Father in Heaven

On whom are we to rely?

On the President?

“The Obama transition team…helped persuade Israel to end the bombing of Gaza and to withdraw its ground troops before the Inauguration,” Hersh wrote. Israel stopped the campaign and agreed to a ceasefire without demanding the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and without the establishment of measures promised by the United States and other Western countries to stop weapons smuggling for Hamas."


The Associated Press reported that "Palestinian militants have smuggled nearly 70 tons of explosives and bomb-making materials and other weapons into Gaza since Israel ended an offensive meant to choke off the arms flow, a senior Israeli defense official said yesterday."

On Corporate America?
Click here to view a one minute trailer to promote a new book by Edwin Black entitled, "Nazi Nexus" which describes America's corporate connections to the Holocaust.

On the Palestinians?
Palestinian officials in a West Bank refugee camp say they have disbanded a youth orchestra after it played for Holocaust survivors in Israel. Jenin refugee camp official Adnan Hindi says the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra should not have played for the survivors, calling the Holocaust "a political issue."

Today, every tidbit of news brought me closer to the realization.
"Nobody on whom to rely except our Father in Heaven."

Associations with the righteous

"On Passover night, we recount the story of our exodus from Egypt. We commence the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim with the words, "Mitchila ovdei avoda zarah hoyu avoseinu". The Haggadah describes how in the beginning our forefathers served idols , but that G-d embraced us and brought us closer to his service. The Haggadah then specifies that our idol worshipping forefather was Terach, the father of our patriarch Abraham.
The question arises : Why was Terach referred to as the father of Abraham – usually the custom is to refer to someone as 'the son of so and so' (e.g. when calling someone up to the Thora for an aliya – we call up the person as ... , son of …) and not 'the father of …' – hence Terach should have been called 'Terach , the son of Nachor' by the Hagaddah and not the father of Abraham?
The answer is that the Haggadah is teaching us an important lesson. Both Terach and his father Nachor were idol worshippers, whereas Abraham recognized G-d's existence. The Haggadah refers to Terach as the father of Abraham to teach us that just like Terach is associated with Abraham and not with his idol worshipping father , so too we – the Jewish nation are only connected to the 3 patriarchs Abraham , Isaac and Jacob and not to Abraham's idol worshipping father and grandfather.
This is in line with a Gemara in Tractate Berachot which states that the Jewish people only have 3 patriarchs , namely Abraham , Isaac and Jacob and thus we are only associated with them and not with their idol worshipping forefathers. The Gemara explains that if we were also linked to their idol worshipping forefathers – it would be a constant reminder of sin.
The point the Haggadah is making is that we must be grateful to G-d for only associating us with righteous people and not with evil sinners."

I would like to thank a special young relative for the above contribution. In the zechut of your devar torah may you grow further in Torah learning, may you be blessed in health and parnassah, and may you find your zivug hagun bekalut and bekarov. In short, alle berachos.

Here comes the sun

29 Mar 2009

Off with your Facebook

Attention girls and parents of girls. I would like to discuss a subject which has been vexing me for a number of months. I have a friend whose son is in law school. He is a frum modern boy. When a shidduch is suggested for him, he checks to see if he can see the girl's picture on Facebook. He told his mother that if a girl is stupid enough to have her picture posted on Facebook, for all the world to see, he is not interested in going out with her. He said she should have least put in security measures, so that only her friends can access her profile.
Girls, we are talking about a modern boy who is not in yeshiva all day, but, he too, is not interested in going out with a girl who doesn't follow the precept of "kol kvoda bat melech pnima". How do you know if this guy wasn't your bashert and you blew it by posting your picture?
I was absolutely shocked to see what one of you posted on this site. Yes, you might be pictured in modest attire, but you pose in a provocative manner, unbefitting a bat Yisrael. And then, on your profile page, there is a celebrity look-alike collage which shows your picture juxtaposed in the middle of a circle of pictures of celebrities who most resemble you. Is that what you aspire to in life? Is the most important aspect of your life to resemble Angelina Jolie? I really don't get it.
Married girls-I've seen wedding albums, pictures from honeymoon trips and ski vacations that is none of anyone's business except for your immediate family and friends.
Please, take your profile off Facebook. Try to consider the impact of what you are doing to yourself. If you can't walk out on Facebook, then, at least, block your picture, or eliminate the celebrity look-alike collage from your profile. If you don't want to block your picture, at least have a picture that would befit a high school yearbook. Take gradual steps until you cancel your registration with Facebook altogether.
Who can name the people who left Egypt and participated in the Keriyat Yam Suf? Nachshon ben Aminadav springs to mind, as he was the first to jump into the water. Who will be the first to sign out of Facebook? Post a comment anonymously, indicating what steps you have undertaken. And may Hashem bless you with all that is good and may you find your bashert bekarov.
to be continued.......

28 Mar 2009

Lend a hand

Once, an aspiring young Torah scholar came to the Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Kanievsky zt"l, with a pressing problem. He presented him with a note. "I come home from the yeshiva , and the scene in the house leads me to despair. The table is not set, the kitchen is hardly clean, and the children are not bathed! What should I do? How can I concentrate on my studies when I have such problems?" As he waited for an answer, the aspiring scholar expected the Steipler to advise him how to deal with a wife who was not living up to his standards.
The Steipler looked up from the paper and made a grave face. The young man smiled, for he understood that the Steipler must have realized the severity of the situation. Then the Sage spoke in his heavy Russian-accented Yiddish. "You really want to know what to do?"
The young man nodded eagerly.
The Steipler looked austere.
"Take a broom."

Parsha Parables 3
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Lend a hand, particularly at this time when your wife is overwhelmed with Pesach cleaning.
I had a divorced friend whose son was embarrassed to walk into shul alone without his father. Lend a hand. Offer to take a boy without a father to shul or to help him to study for his gemara test.

27 Mar 2009

Reaching spiritual heights

This week's Torah Portion is Parshat Vayikra. The following is a short devar torah relating to Korbanos.

"Rashi says that the reason we put salt on every korban is because Hashem promised the lower earthly waters from the time of creation when they were split from the upper waters that they will be brought on the Mizbei'ach. Therefore Rashi says we do Nisuch HaMayim the pouring of the water on Succos, and salt on the Korbanos. (Vayikra 2:13) The Maharal MiPrague asks, why bring salt? Why not perform Nisuch HaMayim compensating the water itself with every korban that goes up?
Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky answers that bringing salt was the greatest compensation for the lower waters. The lower waters felt that spirituality is measured by lofty heights and the upper waters which were in the heavens were far more fortunate. Hashem wanted to show the water that even the physically low, can reach lofty heights. For this reason we bring salt. To make salt we evaporate the water which rise towards the heavens. The lowly salt remains behind firmly anchored to the earth. Hashem says, it is the salt, the lowest element of the lower waters that should be brought on the mizbei'ach as it too can reach great spiritual heights."

As I leave you for Shabbos, remember that no matter how far you've fallen or how worthless you feel, you have a neshama which can reach great spiritual heights. Strive to reach higher and you just might get there. Good Shabbos.

Judging favorably

I was on my way home from the shops when I saw a woman I know walking a bit ahead of me with her daughter. "She looks exceptionally nice. I am going to give her a compliment", I thought to myself. The woman stopped and rang the bell on an apartment building. As she was buzzed in, I nearly caught up with her, as our eyes made contact. She quickly stepped inside the building. At first, I was upset, thinking she could have waited the few seconds to say hello. But, as I passed the building, I noticed one of the occupants living in the building was a doctor. "That's why she didn't stop for a quick chat. She and her daughter were late for their appointment."

Judge people favorably and G-d will judge you favorably.

Here's a quick joke about the aforementioned topic.

Moe and Lenny are strolling home from shul one Saturday morning. Suddenly a cab speeds past, and their friend, Irving, is running frantically behind it, flailing his arms wildly.
"Well," said Lenny, "I never imagined our good friend Irving was a Sabbath violator! Look at him running for that taxi."
"Wait a minute," Moe replied. "Didn't you read that book I lent you, The Other Side of the Story, about the command to judge other people favorably? I'll bet we can think of hundreds of reasons for Irving's behavior. He is our friend and we must look for a favorable reason for his seeming violation of the Shabbat laws"
"Yeah, like what?"
"Maybe he's sick and needs to go to the hospital."
"Come on! He was running 60 miles an hour after that cab - he's healthier than Arnold Schwartzenweis."
"Well, maybe his wife's having a baby."
"She had one last week."
"Well, maybe he needs to visit her in the hospital."
"She's home."
"Well, maybe he's running to the hospital to get a doctor."
"He is a doctor."
"Well, maybe he need supplies from the hospital."
"The hospital is a three minute walk in the opposite direction."
"Well, maybe he forgot that it's Shabbat!"
"Of course he knows it's Shabbat. Didn't you see his tie. It was his paisley beige 100% silk Giovani tie from Italy. He never wears it during the week."
"Wow, you're a really observant Jew! I didn't even notice he was wearing a tie."
"How could you not notice? Didn't you see how it was caught on the back fender of the taxi?"


"The soldiers' self-sacrifice and the army's professionalism underscored what we already saw in the Second Lebanon War. Israel's problem is not technical. It is not a lack of equipment or the product of poor planning. We are losing on every challenging front: military, social, educational, economic, health and more. We are losing because the State of the Jews cannot be just another place under the sun. There is no way that the Jews can live as a sovereign entity in their holy land while disconnected from their national activation software - from their roots - namely, the Torah and the eternal values of Am Yisrael."

by Moshe Feiglin

Full article can be accessed here.

Is our society ungrateful?

To watch a short video about whether our society has become totally ungrateful, click here.

And children, remember, if you are lucky enough to have grandparents, thank Hashem. And call up your grandparents today to thank them for all they have done for you. Appreciate them and be grateful.

26 Mar 2009

Thanking Hashem for the Mundane

The other day, I moved my fridge to do a thorough cleaning before Pesach. After I moved it, I didn't hear the motor running, and thought that I might have broken it, but, thankfully, I soon heard the reassuring noises of a functioning fridge. Two days later, I was using my vacuum cleaner and it stopped when I accidentally pulled out the plug. It got me to thinking on how I take things for granted. Did I ever stop to thank Hashem for a functioning fridge? Last month, I posted a poem entitled "Thank you Hashem", written by an 11 year old girl. You can click here to read the poem. Since then, I have been walking around with an attitude of gratitude to Hashem.

The other night, I went for a walk and came across a deaf couple signing each other and I looked up to the sky and said, "Thank you Hashem, because I can hear." As I proceeded down the block, I heard the sounds of a classical piece of music being played by a professional pianist. Again, I thanked Hashem for being able to hear the music. Let's thank Hashem for the big things, as well as the minor things, including a working vacuum cleaner, especially during the time of Pesach cleaning.

As you listen to the song below, please concentrate on the opening words, "My G-d, I thank you for your kindnesses". And thank Hashem for enabling you to hear the music.

Mazal Tov deja vu all over again and again

Mazal Tov. Another boy on the list of our shemirat halashon group got engaged! I'm not making this up.

Moving to a More Advanced Pacemaker in Israel

Yesterday, the following was posted on the yeshivaworld website.
"A newer pacemaker that permits a patient to undergo a MRI was installed in a man in his 60s for the first time in Israel. The procedure, which took place last week, was conducted in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
Israel’s Health Ministry has approved the Medtronic Company device and Rambam’s Dr. Ariel Rogen announced he is pleased with the results and ministry officials are indicating the newer advanced pacemaker is the only one of its kind in the world and it is the type that will be used from today on in Israel, the daily Yisrael HaYom reports.
Doctors estimate that 50-75% of pacemaker patients around the world will need a MRI at some point and this new device will definitely serve to facilitate that reality."


I wonder if all those who call for a boycott of Israel would put their lives on the line and choose not to install such a pacemaker.

Last night I had the strangest dream

Last night, I dreamed that I was sitting opposite President Clinton at a formal dinner (fat chance) and I started confronting him as to why he hadn't pardoned Jonathan Pollard. I suppose because I was involved with trying to set up saying Tehilim for the 3 bochrim in Japan, that I had prisons on my mind. So, this morning, when I said the beracha of matir asurim, I had Gilad ben Aviva and Yehonatan ben Malka in my thoughts.

Today, on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the month where the gemara states, ""BeNisan NiGalu, BeNisan Atidin LeGaeil" "In Nisan we were redeemed, and in the future, we will be redeemed in Nissan", I am going to take some time to write a letter to Jonathan Pollard. If I can't free him physically, perhaps I can free him mentally from his jail, albeit for the few minutes that it takes him to read my letter. If you would like to do the same, I refer you to a previous post to obtain his address.
UPDATE: Haaretz has just published an article entitled "What has Israel done for Jonathan Pollard lately?" To access full article, click here.

25 Mar 2009

Facebook - Be Prepared

Coming soon to a blogspot near you.

My rantings and ravings about Facebook. Stay tuned.

Mazal Tov deja vu all over again

No sooner had I published my previous post relating to lashon hara, when I received a phone call. Mazal Tov! A sister of a boy on our shemirat halashon list got engaged. Oif simchos by you iy"h.
I would highly recommend joining a shemirat halashon group. I can't say it's a segulah for a guaranteed shidduch, but I can say, almost certainly, that it is a segulah for speaking less lashon hara.

Positive Effects

"While on a visit to Eretz Yisrael in 1936, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Rebbe of Ger (and author of Imrei Emes), wrote the following in a letter to his followers in Poland:

I also seek the following from you: As the tribulations befalling our nation have multiplied both within and without, and our Sages, with their trustworthy insight, have taught that the causes of this exile are loshon hora and sinas chinam (baseless hatred), I suggest that all of you study Sefer Chofetz Chaim and Sefer Shmiras HaLoshon ...Heaven and earth bear witness that upon completing the above-mentioned works I felt within myself a positive effect. Even those who are of wholesome character will feel a positive effect from studying these works."

part of email from Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

Today, I learned two halachos from the book "Guard your Tongue" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin according to the calendar of Rabbi Segal z"l. Chapter 7, halacha 4 states, "You are forbidden to believe a wide-spread rumor (kol) that a person has performed an improper act.

Mr. Spitzer read in a newspaper that Michael was caught smuggling. Even though the information is well-known, Mr. Spitzer is forbidden to believe it, or have read it."

To sign up to receive a daily email from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, click here.

A sense of entitlement

The following is a letter that was emailed to me the other day.

" Visiting my local barber last week, I asked him whether the financial crisis has affected his clients. Since barber shop clients are notorious for spilling out their guts while being cut and shaved, I knew I could get a man-on-the-street view of what is going on among the religious population who frequent this hair salon on Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem. The barber told me that while the Israeli chareidim have not been severely affected as yet, the Americans are being wiped out.
That is, many young American students, mostly married, are no longer receiving any support from back home in the USA. The barber emphasized this by pointing out, to my amazement, that some of his American clients are asking for credit (“lirshom”) as they do not have the 40 shekels for a haircut!
While I have been empathizing with middle-aged friends who have been laid off and whose careers may effectively be over, my dear friend, a prominent financial advisor, points out that another sea change that will come from the current crisis is an end to the “entitlement era” that our children have enjoyed.
Most of us grew up after World War II, did not come from wealth, and were basically on our own after high school or college. There was no one to financially support us into our twenties or even thirties, married or not. We knew we had to make it on our own, and that neither government, institutions, nor family would carry our financial burden.
Having gone to college, developed careers, and lived through prosperity for the last 30-40 years, we have trained the next generation, in various degrees, to rely on us and not to be concerned with self support until a much later age. This may be fine for royalty or families with unlimited resources, but not so for most of us who still need to work to support our families. And now that so many are out of work, with many more layoffs predicted for the duration of at least this year, that support system is found to be bankrupt.
With no viable alternative, many of our children’s generation will shortly learn that they are now on their own, the same way we were. To be sure, there will much moral, psychological, and familial support, just as we had. But the free lunch will be gone. And in the long run, that may not be all bad. In the short run, the trauma may hurt. But one of the main jobs of parents is to help prepare children for adult life, and in this we may have been remiss.
Whatever becomes of the worldwide depression, and however long it lasts, one silver lining that is has brought is to teach everyone that they cannot depend on the boss, the father, the government, or the Kollel. You can rely only on the L-rd and on yourself. "

Last week, I heard a lecture in which the Rabbi said that a segulah for parnassah is to recite Parshat Hamon daily. The Mishna Berura quotes the Yerushalmi in Brochos which says that one who recites Parshat Hamon will not lack sustenance. Reading it alone isn't sufficient, as one has to understand from the reading that our sustenance comes about through Divine intervention. As one reads the account of how Klal Yisroel was sustained by Hashem in the desert for a period of 40 years, we ingrain in ourselves the notion that our livelihood comes about only because Hashem wills it.
The Rabbi told a story about a man who lost his job, and was advised to say Parshat Hamon. As soon as he undertook the daily recital of Parshat Hamon, he received two job offers.

Prof. Aumann on ransoming captives

Click here to listen to Prof. Yisroel Aumann, Nobel Prize winner for his work on game theory, discussing exchange of prisoners for Gilad Shalit.

24 Mar 2009

The Jew and the Gentile

The other side of the coin. But, you have to be Jewish to understand why these are such a howl.
Here's a cultural reflection:

All we ever hear are Jewish jokes. So, here are some gentile jokes!!!!
A gentile goes into a clothing store and says, "This is a very fine jacket. How much is it?"
The salesman says, "Its $500."
The gentile says, "OK, I'll take it."
Two gentiles meet on the street.
The first one says, "You own your own business, don't you? How's it going?"
The other gentile says, "Just great! Thanks for asking!"
Two gentile mothers meet on the street and start talking about children.
Gentile mother 1 (said with pride): "My son is a construction worker!"
Gentile mother 2 (said with more pride): "My son is a truck driver!"
A man calls his mother and says, "Mother, I know you're expecting me for dinner this evening, but something important has come up and I can't make it."
His mother says, "OK."
A gentile couple goes to a nice restaurant.
The man says: "I'll have the steak and a baked potato, and my wife will have the julienne salad with house dressing. We'll both have coffee."
The waiter asks, "How would you like your steak and salad prepared?"
The man says,"I'd like the steak medium......the salad is fine as is."
The waiter says, "Thank you."
A gentile man calls his elderly mother. He asks, "Mom, how are you feeling? Do you need anything?"
She says, "I'm feeling fine, and I don't need anything. Thanks for calling."
Now you know why there are no gentile jokes

Tehillim for imprisoned bochrim in Japan

"Rabbonim Shlita are calling on the tzibur to pour out its heart in tefillos and tehillim on Wednesday, erev rosh chodesh Nissan, Yom Kippur Katan, on behalf of the three bochrim imprisoned under extremely harsh conditions in Japan.
Gedolei Hador Shlita are calling on those who can to complete Sefer Tehillim on behalf of Yoel Zev ben Mirel Reesa Chava; Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel; and Yosef ben Ita Rivka.
The tefilla rally planned for Yerushalayim will get underway at 2:00pm in Meah Shearim."

"There is a custom in the month of Elul which is a good custom to embrace. Some have the custom to read 10 Perakim of Tehillim everyday after the Tefilah. If one were to do that in the month of Elul, which is 30 days, he could read a total of 300 Perakim of Tehilim, which is actually finishing the book twice. The word KAPER, which means atonement, is equivalent to the number 300."
Rabbi Eli Mansour www.dailyhalacha.com

I just need 15 people who visit this site to take upon themselves to recite 10 perakim of Tehilim and we will have recited the entire sefer. I sign up i"yh to recite Perakim 1 through 10 tomorrow, having in mind the speedy release from prison of the bochrim. Who will commit to Perakim 11-20?
UPDATE: SA is saying tehilim 11-20. Who will recite 21-30?
UPDATE: Shalom is saying 21-30. Who will recite 31-40?
UPDATE: Ruthi is reciting 31-40. Who will recite 41-50?
UPDATE: AB is reciting 41-50. Who will recite 51-60?
UPDATE: Tehilim 71-100 are taken.
UPDATE: HM is reciting 101-110.
UPDATE: CS is reciting 141-150.
UPDATE: Esti is reciting tehilim 51-60.
UPDATE: tehilim 111-140 have been said.
Baruch Hashem, someone volunteered to say perakim 51-70. Thanks to all who took part in reciting the entire Sefer Tehilim. May the bochrim merit a speedy release.

Leave a comment or email me at devorah@live.co.uk.

The following was emailed to me this morning.
"Please say tehillim and give tzedoka for the refuah shelama of 4 year old Avraham Moshe ben Miriam Toba who has cancer that spread to his brain and spine."

Sarah Schenirer yarzheit

Last night, I attended a lecture given to commemorate the yarzheit of Sarah Schenirer (1883 - 1935) the founder of the first Jewish Orthodox education system for girls, known as Bais Yaakov, which she established in Poland in 1918.

“The Main goal of the Beth Jacob school,” wrote Sara Shenirer, “is to train the Jewish daughters so that they will serve the L-rd with all their might and with all their hearts; so that they will fulfill the commandments of the Torah with sincere enthusiasm and will know that they are the children of a people whose existence does not depend upon a territory of its own, as do other nations of the world whose existence is predicated upon a territory and similar racial background. The Beth Jacob ideology stresses the following: religion; the fight against assimilation; the attachment to the Yiddish language.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Schenirer

An article in the Jewish Observer states, "She was not blessed with children of her own. And yet she was a mother. In fact, one could rightly say that no mother in our generation had as many children as she did.
When she departed this life in 1935, hundreds of Jewish girls walked behind her aron, towards the Cracow cemetery, and wept with heartrending outcries, as one does for one's own departed mother. And when news of her petirah became known throughout the cities and towns of Jewish Poland, thousands of Jewish girls tore kriah and sat shivah as if for a mother. The very same year hundreds of young Jewish mothers named their new-born daughters Sarah, after a woman, who - two decades earlier - was still an unknown Jewish seamstress, but who had since become: Sarah Schenirer, the legendary mother of a new Torah-true generation of Jewish women in pre-war Eastern Europe. "


The article continues, "At the age of thirteen she completed school. She wanted to continue with her studies, but her parents’ material poverty prevented her from doing so, and she became a seamstress. When one client was unusually particular about the measurements of her dress Sarah recorded in her diary:
People are such perfectionists when it comes to clothing their bodies. Are they so particular when they address themselves to the needs of their soul? "

The rabbi who spoke last night said that when Yosef was in Egypt, Potiphar's wife tried to commit him to sin. What ultimately saved him from sinning was seeing the image of his father. So, too, was Sarah Schenirer the image that the Bais Yaakov girls saw in their minds as they lived through the war years, even striving, to the best of their ability, to observe the mitzvot in the concentration camps.
The lecturer stressed that parents must strive to set a good example for their children, just as Yosef was able to conjure up his father's image to sustain him during his tribulations. The rabbi spoke about how he had gone to shul, one day, and saw a boy davening next to him. As the rabbi was reciting the first beracha in Shemoneh Esrei, the boy had already completed the whole prayer. He wondered how the boy could rush through his prayers. But, a short while later, he had the occasion to daven with the boy's father in shul, and he was able to see how the father's rushed davening served as a lesson for the son on how to pray. So, let's remember that our behavior impacts upon our children. They will grow up to be copies of their parents, in many cases. So, let's set a good example.
I would also like to offer a special appreciation to the organizer of the annual Sarah Schenirer tea in my area, who tirelessly and devotedly, works to bring to fruition an event where thousands are raised for the special mitzva of covering the expenses of poor brides in Israel.

23 Mar 2009

Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone

This past week, the Mishpacha magazine published an article about a Polish spy who infiltrated the Auschwitz concentration camp and succeeded in leaking information to the outside. Rabbi Moshe Grylak writes that the spy "relayed large volumes of information on the atrocities....including the gas chambers." He further writes, "For it has now become definitively clear that the democratic states making up the Allied Forces at war with Nazi Germany were aware as early as 1942 that genocide was taking place. The planned, deliberate slaughter of millions of Jews was reported to them by a witness on the scene and they made a conscious decision not to take action against it, thus becoming participants on this terrible crime. They will have to sit together with Hitler, yemach shemo, on the defendants' bench of history, or more correctly, they will have to stand trial come the great and terrible Yom Hadin at the end of days, when Hakadosh Baruch Hu judges all the peoples of the earth, tearing the mask of hypocrisy off of their "enlightened" faces and exposing the evil in their hearts."
A few days before reading the article, I came across a Herald Tribune headline,

Israel faces isolation as new leader gets ready
$2 million to be used for improving nation of the nation abroad

When reading the magnitude of the amount set aside for hasbarah, I was dismayed. Personally, I think the money would have been better spent on feeding Israel's poor. I recall a video I saw a number of years ago which showed the plight of some Israeli families living in Jerusalem. Images of eight mattresses crammed into a room, a little larger than my bathroom will remain indelibly inscribed in my brain. I was shocked to see women hanging wet Pampers on clotheslines, to be reused once they dried out.
Especially after reading Rabbi Grylak's article I recalled the words, "Hen am levadad yishkon uvagoyim lo yitchashav," "Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Bemidbar 23:9).
Yesterday, the Jerusalem Post published an article entitled "Islam teacher disputes Shoah testimony" in which it was reported that a holocaust survivor was asked to describe his experience in the Buchenwald camp to a group of students at a school in Brussels. During the meeting, a teacher of Islamic religion told the students that the survivor's account was largely exaggerated.
A reader's comment stated the following. "The chutzpah of this person who wasn't there to deny the testimony of a survivor only proves that the Jew haters hatred knows no bounds. Hatred is the absence of reason. Their hatred of us is the only excuse they need to falsify history. "
While I do agree that we must make an effort on our parts to portray Israel in a positive light (I even signed up as a hasbarah volunteer), the question still remains as to why spend such a vast sum of money on hasbarah to foreign nations, when the real hasbarah must be to Hashem? Why pour money into reasoning with sonei Yisrael when, the only One's opinion who really counts is Hashem, Ohev amo Yisrael?

The main thing is to help others

Last night, I came across a two minute video presentation of Mrs. Hammer, a 97 year old woman who has been nicknamed "the chicken lady". Click here to watch and be inspired.

22 Mar 2009


Last week, I wrote about the shidduch crisis and asked readers to write to me at devorah@live.co.uk with suggestions on how to alleviate the crisis. The following day I received this email. Perhaps you would like to click on http://www.makeashidduch.org/ and donate or receive a free download of the shidduch magazine. May you find your bashert bekarov and bekalut. Leilui nishmat Alvin Cohn, I am publishing this post on the day of his Yarzheit.

Dear Friends,

With the Shidduch crisis being one of the most paramount and conspicuous issues facing Klal Yisrael today, to help make a major difference, I created the Make A Shidduch Foundation™ in memory of my father, Alvin Cohn, z”l, whose 21st Yahrzeit will be celebrated this coming Sunday, 26 Adar 5769, Sunday, March 22, 2009.

When I first began, a respected friend, himself an extremely successful businessperson, told me it would take quite a bit of money to get the organization off the ground. It has been well worth it as B”H we have seen many successes.

However, the turn in the economy has complicated our fund raising projections. Therefore, I come to you for much needed help.

Let me give you an idea of some of what we have accomplished, so far.

We have already seen wonderful results from some of our programs, namely:

· 16 engagements/marriages reported from The Shadchan® magazine… so far,
· 1 engagement resulting from our Shidduch University™ courses,
· More than 100 singles who have already registered for the Strike A Match™ program when ready,
· the internationally published article about Make A Shidduch by Mishpacha Magazine, as well as
· the beautiful article in Mishpacha Magazine by Yonoson Rosenblum, touting & endorsing our soon to be live, ShidduchVision™, itself a unique concept. Rabbi Moshe Heinemann was quoted in the aforementioned article, “ShidduchVision will revolutionize the world of Shidduchim.” The Haskama for this fabulous program is from HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita.
· I called for the creation of, and saw through the completion of the only guide for Shadchanim in the world, Shidduchim 101. We have been receiving nothing but rave reviews from all who have read it. (Singles in particular!)
What can you do to help?
I am sending this email to you, because I believe, or have been told, that you have demonstrated sensitivity to the Shidduch Crisis/Challenge- call it what you’d like. I respectfully ask that you
be part of any shidduch made through the Make A Shidduch Foundation™ by making a minimum tax-deductible contribution of $36 to help us continue to help our singles. (As a token of our appreciation, you will receive a FREE a copy of Shidduchim 101-subject to quantity on hand.) If you’ve contributed within the last six months please accept my apologies for this email.

Having been described as an issue of "deenay n’fashos" (saving souls), I hope you will place the Make A Shidduch Foundation™ as a top priority.

As we quickly approach Chag HaPesach and busy ourselves with all the mitzvos involved with this Yom Tov, let us keep our singles in mind and try to free them from the “avodah kashah” involved in today’s Shidduch process. With your help, this extra push will go a long way to helping us resolve a portion of our overwhelming debt.

In the merit of your anticipated participation, I thank you, the singles thank you and I daven that Hashem thanks you by giving you tremendous happiness, peace and prosperity, always.

With best wishes for a Chag Kosher V’Sameach,

M’shenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha

Jeff Cohn
MakeAShidduch Foundation
a trade name of
The Simcha Foundation
a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization
17 Warren Road
Suite 15A
Baltimore, MD 21208-5001

The MakeAShidduch Foundation mission is to give hope to the tens of thousands of Orthodox Jewish singles throughout the world, who are in search of their soul mates, by facilitating shidduchim in a dignified manner throughout the Shomer Shabbos community, offering innovative methods and thought-provoking programs. These programs include, among others, The Shadchan® magazine,
“Strike A Match”, “Shidduch Exchange”, “ShidduchVision” and “Shidduch University.”
MakeAShidduch Foundation has recently published Shidduchim 101 that provides the reader with 44 clear, practical, and insightful Questions & Answers about matchmaking which comprise the main section of the book. The reader also has the ability to contact experienced Shadchanim for mentoring, Hilchos Lashon Hara as it pertains to Shidduchim, Tefilos for singles, forms to help the Shadchan gain a much deeper understanding of who the single really is, plus resources to help people 'redd' shidduchim-- these are just some of the 'tools" included in this 200 page masterpiece written by the founder of the Torah Umesorah Creative Learning Pavilion, Mrs. Shana Kramer. Order your copy at www.makeashidduch.org

Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh

This week we commence the Torah reading with the Book of Vayikra, where we learn about the laws of sacrifices. "When an adam from among you brings an offering to Hashem." (Leviticus 1:2) Why does the verse need the words "from among you?", Isn't every person "from among you?"
In Parsha Parables 3 , Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky brings an illustrative story to explain the seemingly extraneous words.
"The rabbi was preaching to a packed crowd, and the mood was somber and tense as he expounded on the gravity of a sin. Exhorting the people to repent - to do teshuva -, he called upon them to come back to the faith and laws of their Creator. Although he was reluctant to use the power of certain words, he knew that they would stir his audience. So he added the clincher.
"Does everyone in this community know what is going to happen to them?", he asked. "Everyone in this community is going to die!"
The audience gasped in fear, and the sobriety of the moment was etched in deep creases on their faces.
All of them felt that way - except for one elderly gentleman who sat smiling in the second row directly in front of the rabbi. As the rabbi began to speak again, the man actually chuckled. Disturbed, the rabbi stopped. Perhaps the old-timer did not get the point. In even louder tones the rabbi implored, "It is time to repent!" then he added with increased fervor, "Did you hear me? Everyone in this community is going to die!"
The man's smile broadened. Oblivious to the countenance of his fellow listeners, it was as if the rabbi's words simply had no effect on him.
The rabbi stared directly at the man, and with passion in his voice, he asked, "What's the matter with you? Don't you realize that everyone in this community is going to die?"
The old man looked back; his smile broader than ever. "Heh heh! he chuckled. "It's all right, rabbi, I'm not from this community!"
Rabbi Kamanetsky goes on to explain that "there are no islands and no individuals"..."We are all clearly part of the greater community, and everything we do comes from, and affects, others who are among us."

The Jersualem Post reported that a terror attack was averted, on Saturday in a Haifa mall. " The massive attack was averted after one of several explosive devices hidden in a parked vehicle outside the Lev Hamifratz shopping center malfunctioned. "
Today, when we say the prayer of Modim in the Shemoneh Esrei, let's take some time to thank Hashem, the Shomer of Israel who protected his people from tragedy. Let's thank G-d for averting a catastrophe in Haifa, which is OUR community, as well.

21 Mar 2009

Insurmountable Problems

The puzzle in this week's Hamodia magazine read:

What's the next line?

I pored over the stream of numbers until my eyes blurred. I tried coming up with letter substitutes and mathermatical equations, to no avail. "I give up. I'll just have to wait till next week's edition to see the solution", I told myself.
The day passed uneventfully and it was time for bed. As my head hit the pillow, I mentally recited the numbers. "That's it. It was simple. Why hadn't I thought of that before?"
That night I learned a lesson that seemingly insurmountable problems can have uncomplicated solutions. I learned not to give up so easily. Persevere, and you just might attain your goal.

A Tribute to my Friend

The Jewish Press publishes a weekly column by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. Lately, she has been writing about the "three-fold formula through which we can protect ourselves in the most trying period of Chevlei Moshiach". Her formula is 1. Laasok B'Torah, 2. Laasok B'Gemilas Chassadim and 3. to be scrupulous regarding the third Shabbos meal.
This past week, Rebetzin Jungreis spoke in my area and my friend and I went to hear her. My friend was visibly moved by her words. A number of hours before Shabbos, I met my friend on the street. She invited me to come to her house for Shalosh Seudos, the third Shabbos meal. She told me to be prepared with a dvar torah and that we would sing the psalm of Mizmor LeDavid, just as Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis had described her Shalosh Seudos.
I just spent a lovely spiritual Shalosh Seudos with her. I read her an article from the Mishpacha Junior Magazine which talked about how Bnei Yisrael donated items to the Mishkan and did not regret their decision, afterwards. The author of the article says it is a fundamental lesson for us to learn that when we make a decision, we should act upon it immediately, when we are imbued with enthusiasm and before the fervor wears off. I told my friend how impressed I was with her for her decision to act immediately after hearing the lecturer's words. I reminded her that when I told her about an article in the Hamodia about a woman who participated in a shemirat halashon group which would daven for her son to find a shidduch, she immediately responded with, "count me in." Within a week, she had organized a group of 18 women in our area who were davening for a list of singles to find their intended ones.
I told her the story of my grandfather from many years ago. I once went to his house and complained to him about the state of disrepair of the women's siddurim in the shul. I had been davening Shemoneh Esrei, only to find two pages missing from the prayer book. Within seconds of my recounting the incident, my grandfather took out his checkbook and wrote a check to cover the purchase of new siddurim for the women's section.
To my friend, I say, "Kol Hakavod. May you live a long life and continue to serve as an inspiration to me, just as my grandfather did, many years go. And may we be zocheh to dance at each other's simchos."

20 Mar 2009

Good Shabbos

For a great joke about an atheist and a bear, click here.

Have a good Shabbos.

The Shidduch Crisis

A number of months ago, Hamodia published an article by D. Kiel about her mother-in-law. She began with the following paragraph.

"My very first meeting with my amazing mother-in-law, a”h, was an incredible lesson in good mother-in-lawship, although I didn’t realize it until years later. Dressed in the most stylish outfit I possessed, I gingerly sat down on her sofa and searched for words. Not one for trite “how-do-you-do’s,” Mom turned to her son and said, Oy, mein kind, host du gut gedavent! “Oh my son, you really prayed well!” This definitely loses flavor in translation, but I still remember her words more than fifty years later. Mom not only knew how to make a nervous kallah feel good, she knew how to lay the foundations for a solid mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, a tradition I have tried to carry on."

Those words made a deep impression on me and serve as a lesson how to act when meeting your prospective son-in-law/daughter-in-law. A very wise relative once told me that her husband had posed her the question, "You want 100% for your child. But did you ever stop and think if your child is 100%?"
Particularly in these times when there is a shidduch crisis and older singles have yet to meet their bashert, if we have the zechut of getting our children engaged, our first reaction should be one of simcha and gratitude to Hashem. We should say, "Thank you, Hashem. Ich heb gut gedavent." And to our son/daughter, we should say, "host du gut gedavent." Let's not focus on the flaws, but on the positive traits. And let's be happy and grateful that our son/daughter is meriting to build a bayis neeman beYisrael.
As I mentioned, there is a shidduch crisis and I would like to invite readers to send me their ideas on how to alleviate the problem. Just email me at devorah@live.co.uk. If the idea has merit, I will post it on my blog, either anonymously or I can post the author's name if he/she wishes.
In high school, one of our assigned readings was the book Tehila by S.Y. Agnon. It was about a woman who spoke sparingly because she believed that Hashem had allotted her a certain amount of words in her lifetime. If she used them up, she would die.
Similarly, Hasem decreed that a certain number of souls are to be born before Mashiach's arrival. So, let's help singles get married and bring further souls into the world, and may we merit seeing the redemption bimhera beyamenu.

19 Mar 2009

Birchat Hachamah footage from 28 years ago

In the highly acclaimed book, Just One Word - Amen by Esther Stern, there is an incident related about a man who was over 100 years old. A volunteer at an old age home asked the man the secret to his longevity. The man related that in 1917 he arrived in the Schiff shul in Vienna for Shabbat Mevarchim where he heard the gabbai announce when the moled would take place. The gabbai announced that the moled would take place on Tuesday night at one o'clock. The crowd expected the gabbai to announce the chalakim of the minute, as well but the gabbai said nothing. He told them that they were experiencing something that only occurred once in eighty seven years, when the moled occurs exactly as the clock stikes one. He said that the next Rosh Chodesh which would take place precisely on the hour would be Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5765. He added a prayer that the congregants should all merit to be alive at that time. The old man, a young boy at the time, realized the magnitude of the gabbai's blessing and answered "Amen". He had emunah that he would yet live to Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5765. And so he did.
The video below shows amazing footage from birchas hachama ceremony that took place at Lubavitch headquarters 28 years ago. The journalist ends the report by stating, "But the ceremony ended with the wish that all should be well and live long enough to celebrate this day the next time."
So, as we participate in Birchas Hacham on Erev Pesach of this year, when we hear the wish that we should be alive to celebrate the next occurrence of the birchas hachama ceremony, let us seize the moment and answer "AMEN".
(Incidentally, I highly recommend the book Just One Word-Amen. Makes for much better reading during your leisure time than David Baldacci).
Thanks to shiratdevorah.blogspot.com for making me aware of the video.

Birchas hachama video

Mazal tov deja vu

Exactly one week ago I posted the following:
"It is with great simcha that I impart the news that one of the boys on the list of our shemirat halashon group (see previous post) has become engaged!!!!!

May we hear about many more simchas bekarov."
Baruch hashem, I can post the news once more for another boy on our list.

If it's horses, count me in

The holiday of Passover is fast approaching, a time where we will be together with families or friends and sit around the Pesach table, celebrating the seder. It is the time when we have occasion to speak to people at hotels or with our family during the holiday meals. How will we ensure that loshon hora won't be spoken? The following is part of an email that I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage foundation.
You are sitting at someone’s Shabbos table or at a wedding, and several people start speaking loshon hora. What do you do? As we have just learned, listening to loshon hora is forbidden; how, then, can you avoid transgression?
The Chofetz Chaim discusses your options.
1. You can rebuke the gossipers (making sure, of course, to do it in a respectful way). You can remind them that this is a Torah prohibition, halachically equivalent to munching on shrimp or bacon.
2. If you know that they will not listen to rebuke, then “it is a great mitzvah,” writes the Chofetz Chaim, to get up and leave table.
3. If you find this impossible, then you should prepare yourself to stand firm so that you will not be guilty of any sin. Make sure to fulfill the following requirements:
a. Decide firmly in your mind that you will refuse to believe any loshon hora.
b. Make sure that your facial expression does not convey any hint of approval of what is being said. At the very least, you should sit stone-faced; if possible, your expression should convey strong disapproval.......

In a famous incident, the Chofetz Chaim was traveling when he found himself in the company of a group of traders who were deeply engrossed in conversation. The Chofetz Chaim approached them and said, “And what, may I ask, are we talking about? If it’s horses count me in, but if it’s people count me out!”

This past Sukkot, a guest was sitting in my living room and she began a conversation by saying, "Do you know what the rebbetzin did?" I had agreed a few weeks before to join a shemirat halashon group which involved davening for zivugim for a list of people as well as to accept upon myself not to speak loshon hora during a 2 hour period of the day. When the guest asked her question, it was during my 2 hour period that I had agreed to refrain from speaking . I quickly covered my ears and shouted, "don't tell me, it's my loshon hora hour." I felt so silly going to such great lengths but she got the message.
So, let's resolve to be careful with our speech. It helps to visualize beforehand what you would do if you encounter a situation where someone is about to say something you don't want to listen to. Perhaps, we can tell our families the above story and if we hear someone about to speak, our code words will be, "If it's horses, count me in." The whole family will burst into laughter and the awkward situation will pass without further incident.

18 Mar 2009

Baruch Hashem

Baruch Hashem, Sara bas Faygee's operation went better and quicker than expected. While a great hakaras hatov is due the medical team who performed the operation, we must remember that it is ultimately Hashem, "rofeh kol basar", the Healer of all mankind who must receive the greatest thanks. As you click on the link below, concentrate on the lyrics of the song.

Baruch hagever, asher yivtach B’Hashem, v’haya Hashem mivtacho "Blessed in the one who trusts in G-d, then G-d will be his security" Jeremiah 17:7

Smile - it doesn't cost anything

Last night, I attended a lecture given by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. She related an anecdote about the Maggid Of Kelm who asked his audience, "Suppose you did not merit the coming of the Mashiach in your lifetime. You are lying in your grave, and suddenly you hear a tapping. You have been given the chance to return to earth for half an hour. What would you do during those precious minutes?" (Think about this before reading further).
She said that on 9/11 people, for the first time, left recorded messages during the last minutes they had left on earth, knowing full well the end was only moments away. In every case, calls made on the cell phones of the victims registered the same words. "I love you husband; I love you wife; I love you son; I love you daughter; I love you Mommy; I love you Daddy."
In the final analysis, petty quarrels and disagreements don't matter. Shalom is the overriding message. So, let us set aside our grievances and tell the people who are important in our lives that we love them. There is no reason to argue and bear grudges.
After the lecture, I walked home with a friend of mine. As we parted ways, she called out, "Good night. And smile."
I was reminded of the Rebbetzin's words. Too many people are walking around with long faces these days saying, "I have issues". The Rebbetzin's father always used to say to her. "Geib a shmeichel. Se kost gornisht." Smile. It doesn't cost anything.
A smile - it's free and yields high returns. In today's economic environment, isn't it worthwhile to opt for a risk free investment which yields great dividends?

The following words are taken from Isaiah Chapter 50, line 7.
"Ma navu al heharim raglei mevaser,mashmia shalom, mashmia tov, mashmia yeshua..."
"How pleasant on the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, proclaiming peace, proclaiming good, proclaiming salvation..."

As duly noted in the above verse, "proclaiming peace" precedes "proclaiming salvation".
Let's promote peace, stay away from quarrels and smile at each other, thus paving the way to our yeshua.

Historia de un letrero

The other day I posted a beautiful story that had been emailed to me. You can read the story here.
Kudos to Shalom for posting the following comment.

"The story was rendered into a video (or was the video rendered into a story?) which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival 2008. It is touching and poignant and worth the 6 minute watch. It is entitled "Historia de un letrero".

16 Mar 2009

Be thankful

"A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: 'I am blind, please help.' There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, 'Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?' The man said, 'I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.' What he had written was: 'Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.'

Do you think the first sign and the second sign were saying the same thing? Of course both signs told people the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind whereas the second sign told people they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?

Moral of the Story: Be thankful for what you have. Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and positively."

Tehilim for Sara

This Tuesday, March 17, a little girl named Sara bat Faygee is scheduled to undergo surgery to correct a physical deformity with which she was born.
Last night, I heard Rabbi Paysach Krohn speak at the video presentation of Birkas Hachama. One of the things he talked about was the beracha of Asher Yatzar, where we express our gratitude to Hashem for the miraculous workings of the human body. He pointed to his veins and said that if they were to open up, we could die. Alternatively, if our nostrils were to be blocked we could also die.
The day of the surgery, I would like to ask you to recite Tehilim on behalf of Sara bas Faygee. Also, please take upon yourself to say one beracha of Asher Yatzar from the siddur, concentrating on the meaning of the words, and thanking Hshem for maintaining our bodily functions.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת
.הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים
גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם
אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ
.אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשֹוֹת

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who formed man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many hollows (cavities). It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if but one of them were to be ruptured or if one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You (even for a short period of time). Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all flesh and acts wonderously."

"The awesome bracha of Asher Yatzar, (literally "who formed"), which refers to the complexity of the human body, thanks Hashem for creating our body and for the continuous daily miracle of its proper functioning. It is recited every morning as part of the Birchat HaShachar, (Morning Blessings) and again, every time after using the bathroom.

Yes, every time after using the bathroom, we wash our hands and thank Hashem for maintaining our health and well being by reciting the bracha - Asher Yatzar.
We shouldn't wait until we get sick to appreciate our health.
Asher Yatzar is mentioned in the Talmud (Berachot 60b) as one of the brachot compiled by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (Men [Sages] of the Great Assembly) (circa 410-310 BCE).
The Chafetz Chaim and other Great Sages write that the reciting of Asher Yatzar with the proper Kavanah (sincerity, devotion, intent) and from the written text, has the power to help one have a healthy body all of their life. There are many people who were saved from a severe illness by saying this Bracha from the written text with the proper kavanah. This is an easy way to keep down all those doctor fees!!
A sad and worried Jew once came to visit the Chazon Ish (Rav Yeshaya Karelitz) in Bnei Brak. When the man entered, the Chazon Ish was saying the Asher Yatzar Bracha. He pronounced each word slowly and clearly.
The man couldn't contain himself any longer and blurted out, "My child has polio and the doctors say there's no hope."
The Chazon Ish emphasized the last words of the bracha, "Who heals all flesh and acts wonderously."
The Chazon Ish then turned to the man and said, "So, you hear that Hashem does wonders."
This is all the Chazon Ish said to the man.
The child had a completely recovery."


May our tefilot reach the heavens and may Sara and all cholei Yisrael have a refuah sheleima.

Just One Shabbos

Birkas Hachama - Halachos

As I wrote in a previous post, it is worthwhile to see the video presentation sponsored by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage foundation about Birkas Hachama. Those of you who see it will never look at the sun in the same way again.
The following is an email I received by Rabbi Eli Mansour. To register to receive the daily halacha click here.

"The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 229:2; ) codifies the Halacha of "Birkat Ha'hama" - the special Beracha recited upon seeing the sun in the original position in which it was placed in the heavens at the time of creation. This phenomenon occurs once every twenty-eight years, on a Wednesday during the month of Nissan. It will happen this year (5769/2009) on Wednesday, Erev Pesah. Upon viewing the sun that day, one recites the Beracha of "Ose Ma'ase Bereshit."
Preferably, one should recite the Beracha after he views the sun for the first time that day. Nevertheless, if one did not recite the Beracha after viewing the sun for the first time, he may recite it after viewing the sun again. Furthermore, in light of the principle of "Zerizin Makdimin Le'misvot" (one should perform Misvot with zeal and alacrity), it is proper to recite the Beracha early in the morning, immediately at sunrise, when the sun first becomes visible. This is the ruling of the Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806) and the Hesed La'alafim (Rav Eliezer Papo, 1770-1828). However, those who generally make a point of praying Shaharit immediately at sunrise should first pray Shaharit and then go outside to recite Birkat Ha'hama immediately after praying. The value of praying Shaharit right at sunrise supersedes the value of reciting Birkat Ha'hama at sunrise, and so it is preferable to first pray Shaharit before reciting Birkat Ha'hama.
Indeed, it has become customary to recite Shaharit on the morning of Birkat Ha'hama at sunrise, and to then go outside to recite the Beracha immediately after Shaharit. This practice is recorded by Rav Yaakov Haim Sofer (1870-1939) in his Kaf Ha'haim (229:13), and codified by Hacham Ovadia Yosef in his Yehave Da'at (vol. 4).
It is customary to recite a number of relevant chapters of Tehillim - specifically chapters 29 and 148 - before reciting Birkat Ha'hama, and to recite the verses describing the creation of the luminaries (Bereshit 1:14-19). Additionally, there is a custom to recite the "Kel Adon" hymn which we normally recite on Shabbat morning. This custom is recorded in the Kaf Ha'haim and Ben Ish Hai.
A number of authorities (including the Hatam Sofer and Mishna Berura) also mention the practice of reciting Alenu Le'shabe'ah after Birkat Ha'hama. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Yehave Da'at (vol. 4, 18:12), warns that those who recite Alenu must ensure not to bow facing the sun as they recite "Va'anahnu Kor'im." They must turn away from the sun while bowing so as not to give the impression that they worship the sun, Heaven forbid."

15 Mar 2009

Birkas Hachama

I have just returned from seeing the video entitled "The Inner Meaning of Birchas Hachama", organized by the Chofetz Chaim heritage foundation and have emerged with a greater sense of appreciation of the event which is to take place on Erev Pesach when we recite the beracha of "Oseh Maaseh Bereishit". Rabbi Feuer presented an excellent analysis of the special significance of reciting the blessing, one that we are privileged to recite once every 28 years. At the time, the sun is at its alignment with the earth as it was at the beginning of creation, before the corrupt ways of the inhabitants of the earth caused the sun to become misaligned.
Rabbi Feuer spoke about the thoughts that should accompany us when we look up at the sun, and that we should gain an extra revitalization in our emunah in Hashem. The fact is that the sun is ideally juxtaposed in relation to the Earth. Any closer and we would be burned to a crisp. Any further, and we would freeze to death.
Rabbi Feuer also spoke about how a person who remains silent when insulted is compared to the mighty sun emerging in its glory. Just as the sun remained silent when the moon complained about wanting to be greater than the sun, so, too should we learn to steer away from quarrels and remain silent when someone insults us.
After the presentation, I walked home with the mother of a single girl who had organized the showing in Europe. She told me about the great effort and time her daughter had invested in making sure everything goes smoothly. From a mishap with Fedex, to a mishap with the printing of the posters, the girl invested far beyond what we think needs to be done to ensure a smooth running of the video.
I am going to call this girl tomorrow to thank her for her effort. Additionally, I am going to dash off an email to the Chofetz Chaim heritage foundation to thank them for all the wonderful work that they do. Let's show Hakaros Hatov to the organizers and to their assistants. And tomorrow, when I rise and see the sun, I will say thank you to Hashem, for providing us with the sun in all its glory.

Goldie-Lox Jewish version of the classic fairy tale

"Once upon a time, there was a girl called Goldie, who loved bagels and cream cheese and lox; so everyone called her Goldie-Lox. When it was time for shidduchim, the shadchanim told her about three eligible boys. The first boy was a "Big Macher," he made a lot of noise; he liked to eat, and he learned in the biggest chair in the biggest town in the biggest yeshiva. The second boy was also a "Top Boy" but he was very quiet, he hardly ate, and he sat in the smallest chair in the smallest yeshiva ketanah. The third boy was ordinary. He sat in an ordinary chair in an ordinary town in an ordinary yeshiva. Goldie had narrowed her search down to these three boys. Goldie-Lox thought that the first boy was too loud. The second boy was too quiet. The third boy seemed just right, but she was too scared to take the plunge, so metaphorically of course, she jumped out the window and ran away.
Moral of the story: No boy will ever seem perfect; just choose the boy with the flaws you can live with."
printed in Mishpacha magazine
"In the end, we're only the sum of the choices we make".
James Patterson

13 Mar 2009

Parashat Ki Tisa

"In Parashat Ki-Tisa, Moshe makes a startling request of God: "Har'eni Na Et Kebodecha" ("Show me, please, Your glory" - 33:18). Moshe felt that after having spent so much time atop Mount Sinai studying and then praying to God, he had reached the spiritual level where could understand God's ways, why calamities befall the righteous while the wicked prosper. He desperately wanted the answer to the question that has vexed all human beings since creation.God answers with a somewhat obscure response: "You cannot see My face, for no man can see My face and live. Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall be positioned on the rock. As My glory passes by, I shall place you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I pass. I shall then remove My hand and you will see My back, while My face shall not be seen" (33:20-23).Essentially, God tells Moshe that He is prepared to show him His "back," but not His "face." He will therefore prevent Moshe from seeing the divine glory until after it has passed, at which point Moshe will be allowed to see God "from behind."
What does all this mean?The Hatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg, 1762-1839) explained that God here teaches Moshe - and us - a crucial lesson about understanding God. Namely, we can only understand His ways "from behind," meaning, in retrospect, after the fact. While "God passes," as the events transpire, we have no way of explaining why He allowed circumstances to unfold as they do. It is only after the fact - and sometimes very long after the fact - that we can see the divine glory, we can recognize the clear plan that had been in place all along. Even Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest of all prophets, could not see God from the "front." The only way any person can behold God with 20/20 vision is "from behind," when he examines events retrospectively after they occur.Though it is often hard to accept, we must realize our limited ability to understand how God's runs the world. We have to live with certain questions that as yet have no answers, trusting that at some point, the answers will become clear.
The story is a told of a man who visited NASA headquarters in Houston and was given a full-day tour of the premises. Over the course of the day, he went from building to building, seeing all kinds of state-of-the-art machinery, computers, switchboards and expert technicians busy at work. Toward the end of the tour, he saw a small bolt lying on the ground, and picked it up. He showed it to his guide and asked, "What is this for?"The guide angrily retorted, "You fool! Did you understand anything you saw until now, that you need to know what this bolt does? You saw some of the most advanced machinery in the world, which you know absolutely nothing about. Why do you ask only about this bolt?"
When one questions God, wondering why a certain thing occurred, he implicitly makes the assumption that he understands everything else about God. Do we understand our own bodies, how without any thermostat it regulates its own temperature? Or how the body breaks down the food we ingest? The world is infinite, and whatever little we do understand constitutes but an infinitesimal percentage of God's world. Asking why a certain event happened is like choosing one minuscule bolt in the NASA headquarters and wondering why it's there - as if we understand everything else there.
Eventually, perhaps only when we reach the next world, when we can look upon our lives and the world in hindsight, the answers will come. In the meantime, we must live with our questions and recognize our limited ability to comprehend God's ways."
Rabbi Eli Mansour daily halacha

12 Mar 2009

The other day, I came across an article in the Jewish Observer about Rabbi Noach Weinberg, dean and founder of Aish HaTorah. In the article, Rabbi Yaakov Salomon briefly encapsulates the life of a visionary and influential personality. Rabbi Weinberg was only 16 when his father died and took a job at a tender age to ease his family's financial burden. Becoming aware of the great problem of assimilation, Rabbi Weinberg was determined to do something to combat the problem.
The author of the article writes, "Sheva yipol tzaddik vekam". Shlomo Hamelech informs us that a true tzaddok rises, even after falling seven times. But Rabbi Yitchok Hutner explains that the tzaddik's ability to pick himself up comes because of his experiences with failure, not despite them."
Rabbi Salomon then goes on to write, "After Rav Noach's failures with five organizations and three yeshivos, he succeeded in founding Shema Yisrael, which evolved into Yeshiva Ohr Sameach....Then he went off on his own to create Aish Hatorah."
Rabbi Weinberg's perseverance ultimately led to the world's leading Torah education website, Aish.com, which receives nearly 3 million visits per month.
"Failure is not the enemy of success; it is its prerequisite." Rabbi Nosson Scherman

Mazal Tov!

It is with great simcha that I impart the news that one of the boys on the list of our shemirat halashon group (see previous post) has become engaged!!!!!

May we hear about many more simchas bekarov.

11 Mar 2009

Shemirat halashon segulah

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a segulah for a shidduch that I had just heard about. To read the post click here. Someone contacted me, saying she was interested in organizing a group for shemirat halashon. Months ago, Hamodia published an article by a woman who had a son who needed a shidduch. She joined a shemirat halashon group. The day was divided into 9 segments starting form 8 am -10 am, 10am - 12pm...... and the last segment was from 12am-8 am. Eighteen women signed up for a 2 hour segment. Thus, there were two women who covered each time segment. During those two hours, the woman took upon themselves to refrain from speaking lashon hara. In addition, they learned two halachos about lashon hara daily. At the beginning of each week, the women would say a short prayer, having one person from the list in mind. Since there were eighteen names on the list, the women committed themselves for a period of eighteen weeks.
The woman went on to describe how her son became engaged during the eighteen week period.
At the engagement party, she found out that the kallah's mother had also been part of the group and that they had both been refraining from speaking lashon hara during the same two hours.
I mentioned the story to a friend of mine, and she immediately set about to form such a group. The end result was that one boy on the list got engaged during the week we were praying for him.
After the eighteen weeks elapsed, my friend began a second cycle. I told her that I would love to participate for a second time because I had gotten used to saying the 2 halachos a day and found I was much more careful with my speech.
The woman who contacted me is interested in organizing such a group. She allowed me to publish her email address, in case you would like to join. Her address is rachelfranrachfran@yahoo.com. You can also contact me at devorah@live.co.uk.
Additionally, my email correspondent alerted me to a website which organized prayer for refuah, shidduchim, and so on. To access their website, click here.
Finally, as regards any segulah, let us keep in mind the following words from http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html.
"According to the Chazon Ish, bitachon does not mean that you believe if you really pray with all your heart, you will get what you ask for. It means that you accept that whatever happens is for the good even if it doesn't match what you had envisioned. It is like the story in which someone attempted to test a little girl's faith by telling her to go ahead and pray for what she wanted to see if G-d listens to her. But the girl was wise and said, G-d listened, and he said, "no." Hashem is not bound to alter the Divine plan because someone just followed the halacha by taking off challah. "

No time to spare

"The message of Hillel’s question And if I am for myself, what am I? goes further. If the average person were to make an accounting of how his regular day is spent, he would see that only a small part of his time is free for spiritual pursuits. How then can he allow these precious moments to slip by without using them to acquire for himself Torah and mitzvos, an eternal acquisition?

When a person works to provide his wife and children with their needs and pay for his children’s Torah education, his efforts bear great fruit. He will receive reward not only for his hours of Torah study, but for his efforts at earning a livelihood as well, for all his strivings were directed toward one essential purpose — fulfilling Hashem’s will.

Such is not the case, however, when one strives for a lifestyle of luxury, to live in an expensive home with lavish decor, and to dress his family in rich taste. In truth, such a person is not really toiling for himself, that is, for his soul’s benefit — for whose will is he seeking to fulfill, if not his evil inclination? What good will such striving accomplish for his soul? The same can be said of those who labor until their old age so that they can leave a generous inheritance behind for their loved ones. Such effort does not benefit the soul.

Hillel exhorts us to use our precious time on this world wisely, and not to let the hours slip by without accomplishment. Let no one delude himself with the notion that a bit of Torah study, and a mitzvah here and there, is sufficient."
Chofetz Chaim heritage foundation daily email

10 Mar 2009

Let the Pesach cleaning begin

Click on the cartoon to enlarge so that you can read the words of the sign hanging in the kitchen.
Well, Purim was great fun, but now I've got to get down to the serious business of Pesach cleaning. Actually, I did a bit of Pesach cleaning on Purim. As I was about to deliver some shalach manos, my eyes set sight on two books atop a table. I had borrowed the books from a friend about a month ago, had finished reading them two weeks ago and hadn't gotten around to returning them. So, I added those books to my shopping bag and resolved to return them while making my shalach manos rounds. And, actually, I would be walking in the general direction of the place where I exchange my nearly full pushka box for an empty one. So, the pushke box went into my shopping bag, as well.
How many of us have objects in our home that were borrowed and never returned? As long as we are doing our Pesach cleaning, why not resolve to return the items that have been taking up space in your closet for the past weeks,( or years-dare I say).
What about the unfulfilled obligations we have never gotten around to doing? Last month, I heard a shiur in which the lecturer related a story about a man who was approached by the gabbai of his shul. "I know your father-in-law was niftar a little while back", he began, "but the fact is that he owed the shul a sum of money. The son-in-law inquired as to the sum of the debt and he immediately paid the gabbai in full. A short while later, it seems that the father-in-law appeared to his son-in-law in a dream. "You don't know how happy you have made me", he told him.
This week, a relative of mine attended a funeral of a man who was unexpectedly niftar in his fifties. We do not know when our time is up. So, let's settle our debts and return borrowed objects while we still can. The end result will be less clutter in our homes, thus making the job of Pesach cleaning easier.