Thursday, October 16, 2008

Giving Joy to Hashem By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Chaim of Sanz came to visit the Zhikover Rebbe, who was not well. The Rebbe said to R’ Chaim, “Mechutan, please be mispallel for me that I should have a long life.”

The Sanzer asked him, “Why do you want to remain in this lowly world? Wouldn’t it be better to be in the olam ha’elyon?”

The Zhikover answered, “But a person has to come up there equipped.”

The Sanzer answered, “Halevai, that all the Yidden would be prepared like you are.”

The Zhikover pleaded, “Sanzer Rov, have mercy. I cannot leave my children without parnassah, chas v’shalom.”

“And if you live,” said the Sanzer Rov, “what will you do for your children? You will try to see that they are set up in this world. I promise you that I will make sure that they all have what they need as if you were living.”

The Zhikover answered, “Mechutan, when I sing during the Yomim Noraim, “Ein kitzvah l’shenosecha – Your years are limitless,” it causes a great simcha in the Upper World. All the Heavenly Hosts dance with great joy in Shamayim. If I will not be here in this world that nachas ruach (pleasure) that I give to the Heavens will cease.”

The Sanzer Rov then said, “If that is so, then I have to pray that you have an exceedingly long life, in order that this great nachas ruach should not end.”

With that, the Sanzer Rov took leave of the Zhikover Rebbe and went to be toivel (immerse) in the mikvah. When he returned he told the Zhikover, “I have davened for you to live a long life.”

And so it was. The Zikhover had a refuah shleimah and regained his former strength.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Reciprocal Love By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Gemara in Brachos 6 tells us that Hashem wears tefillin and queries, “So what is written in His tefillin?” After all, our tefillin contain various chapters professing our love and devotion to Hashem; surely those are not Hashem’s tefillin! The Gemara explains that, in fact, Hashem’s tefillin contain four chapters expressing Hashem’s reciprocal love for us, such as “Who is like Your nation, Yisroel”!

The Medrash explains that the lulav alludes to our love for Hashem, while the succah proclaims Hashem’s devotion to us that He housed us in booths in the searing hot desert. It is therefore fitting that in the Torah, written by Hashem, the mitzvah of succah which represents Hashem’s love for Klal Yisroel should take precedence. While in the Torah Sheb’al Peh, written by the Yidden, the mitzvah of the Arba Minim, which expresses our great love for Hakodosh Boruch Hu, comes first.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Four Species By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Similarly, the lulav and esrog characterize our position in life. The Talmud tells us in Taanis that we declare before Hashem that just as these species cannot exist without water, so too our existence is contingent on the essence of life derived solely from Hashem.

An interesting aspect is noted relative to the mitzvos of the Yom Tov of Succos. In the Torah, Hashem commands us first about the mitzvah of the Four Species (Vayikra 23:40) “Ulekachtem lachem bayom harishon pri eitz hadar … and you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree … .” Then (Vayikra 23:42) we are directed to dwell in the succah, “Basuccos teshvu shivas yamim – you shall dwell in booths for a seven day period.”

In contrast, when we study the Oral Law (Torah Sheb’al Peh), e.g. Mishnah, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, the mitzvah of succah precedes the elucidation of the mitzvah of the Four Species. Why is this so?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Temporary Dwelling By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

As we celebrate the joyous holiday of Succos, it is interesting to note how the various mitzvos we perform are a means to facilitate our spiritual growth and clearly define our true purpose of life in this world.

The gemara in Mesechta Succah 2a expresses the mitzvah of sitting in the succah as “one should leave his permanent dwelling and reside in a temporary dwelling.”

In fact, the yom tov of Succos is known as “zman simchaseinu – the time of our rejoicing.” Rationally, then, such a practice could be upsetting rather than increasing our state of joy. However, our sages explain that this exercise is intended to teach us the true perspective of Torah life. The individual who imagines that this world is a permanent dwelling can never experience true inner joy, for one who is steeped in the vanities of this world cannot enjoy true simcha. It is only the person who realizes that this world is a temporary residence, and prefers to completely exert his life to coming closer to Hashem, he will be able to feel genuine simcha.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Our Aim By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Suddenly, a blood-curdling cry tore through the forest, and the hunter saw a lion crashing through the trees directly ahead of him. Realizing that his very life depended on his accuracy in hitting the target with only one attempt, he slowly positioned his last arrow in the bow and carefully aimed his weapon.

Forty days of rachamim and selichos have passed. As we get to tefillas Ne’ilah on the holy day of Yom Kippur, those special days set aside for our teshuvah are coming to a close. We have expended all our arrows being mispallel to Hashem and supplicating Him, however we are not certain about the measure of our success. The sifrei chaim and the sifrei meisim are both open, and our lives depend on the precision of our avodah of Ne’ilah. That is the last arrow remaining in our stockpile and every member of Klal Yisroel wants to guarantee that his tefillos prevail.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Our Fears By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

In the Sefer Hirhurei Teshuvah, a parable is cited from the Maggid of Lublin concerning the import of the moment when we reach the juncture of Ne’ilah in our tefillos of Yom Kippur.

A hunter who was traveling in the forest lost his way and with each further step he wandered deeper into the dense woods. All he had with him for protection was his quiver of arrows, with his bow in hand. Afraid of a wild animal that could jump out at any moment, he jumped at every rustle and noise that he heard.

When the trees stirred rather loudly, he shot an arrow in that direction, hoping to waylay a tiger that might jump through the branches. However, when he approached the trees he saw that some large withered branches had fallen off the tree.

He walked a little further and heard the leaves crunching behind him. He turned and shot another arrow, but when he looked for the arrow he found it had become trapped very high up in a tree.

As the wind blew through the trees, he heard strange sounds, and again he pulled an arrow from his quiver to eliminate whatever danger lurked in the dark. By now the hunter was so frightened that he kept plucking arrows from his cache, until he realized that he only had one more arrow in his possession.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Maintaining our Holiness By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Ne’ilah marks the concluding tefillah of Yom Kippur. In the Shemoneh Esrei of Ne’ilah we entreat Hashem, “… v’chasmeinu b’sefer hachaim – and seal us in the Book of Life,” replacing the version we recited throughout the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah of “… v’chasveinu … -- inscribe us.”

The Sefer Mo’adim B’Halacha asks: Why do we make this change, and what is the implication of the word “v’chasmeinu”?

He explains that usually when one would send a letter they would affix a seal on the outside of the envelope to ensure that nobody tampered with the contents of the letter and it would arrive to its destination intact.

When we come to the tefillah of Ne’ilah we have already progressed through forty days of teshuvah. We have performed the avodah of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, and almost completed the entire day of Yom Kippur. At this point we have purified our souls, elevated our spiritual level, and feel closer to Hashem than at any point during the year.

The pasuk in Tehillim (24:3) states: “Mi yaaleh b’har Hashem – who may ascend the mountain of Hashem.” When we do merit to achieve a lofty spiritual level, the nisayon (challenge) is to maintain that holiness. So we pray to Hashem that the achievements we have attained over the past forty days should remain untouched and intact, and we should be able to continue along this same derech throughout the year.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Need to Forgive By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Mishnah in Yuma (8:9) declares that the sins of a person are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless he has appeased his friend. In reverse, explains the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah, one should not be cruel and spiteful; he should be magnanimous and pardon his friend.

HaGaon R’ Chaim Brisker once issued a judgment against a butcher. In a temper, the butcher furiously lashed out against him, calling him a “thief and a murderer.” The butcher was so outraged that he could not be calmed down until R’ Chaim strongly rebuked him.

That Yom Kippur eve, before the chazzan began to recite the Kol Nidre, R’ Chaim approached the butcher and asked for his mechilah. The butcher, still angry, refused to forgive him.

R’ Chaim then assembled three people, as is cited in the Shulchan Aruch, and in their presence once again asked the butcher for mechilah.

Why did R’ Chaim persist in trying to appease the butcher? After all, R’ Chaim had been absolutely correct in reprimanding the butcher. In fact, aside from publicly humiliating the tzaddik and gaon, each accusation that the butcher hurled at the gaon incurred for him personally another serious violation of the Torah’s commandments. It was actually incumbent upon R’ Chaim to prevent the butcher from continuing with his diatribe.

R’ Chaim, however, was concerned that the butcher had been publicly humiliated by his admonishment and wanted to be vindicated for that transgression before the onset of Yom Kippur.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Art of Forgiving By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

They asked him, “Who are you? Have you performed any extraordinary or exceptional acts in your life?”

The man was totally perplexed and answered, “I am a simple person. I cannot imagine any reason why these miracles occurred.”

The tanna’im pressured him to think again and reevaluate what deed could possibly have merited such a phenomenon. He said, “There is only one thing I can possibly think of. Before I go to sleep each night, I make sure to pardon any person who may have wronged me in any way or been hurtful to me. In addition, the next day I try to find a favor I can do for that person who wronged me, so that he will perhaps become my friend.”

“Indeed,” replied the tannai’im, “in a way you are even greater than Yosef HaTzaddik. When Yosef’s brothers tried to harm him, he repaid their evil with good, but they were his own brothers, his family. You are repaying good to people who tried to hurt you, and are not even members of your own family.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Power of Forgiving By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Our chachamim teach us that at this time of year it is especially important to forgive others and to ask others to be mochel (forgive) us. A forgiving nature earns the individual the unique merit that Hashem, in turn, is mochel our sins and transgressions.

There is a fascinating story related by the Zohar which illustrates the exceptional power of mechilah.

Two sages were walking along the road and they noticed a man resting against a wall, with his eyes closed. As they passed, they glimpsed a poisonous snake crawling close by the man, poised to strike. Suddenly a weasel appeared, and attacked the snake, killing it.

The sleeping man awoke, oblivious to the miracle that had just occurred, and resumed his journey on the road. He had only taken a number of steps when the entire wall came crashing down.

When the tanna’im (sages) observed that this individual had merited two separate miracles, they were intrigued and turned back to find out his identity.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Cooperative Effort By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Maran HaRav Shach was once walking together with his talmidim on Shabbos, and they reached the border of Bnai Brak. It was very obviously the boundary between holiness and the mundane. The godol asked his entourage, “Why is there shemiras Shabbos on this side and on that side,” – pointing across the boundary — “there is no shemiras Shabbos?”

One of the talmidim replied, “Rebbi, it’s very simple, because until here is the boundary of Bnai Brak; over there begins the boundary of Ramat Gan.”

Rav Shach answered, “That is not the reason. The reason is because only until here” – pointing to the boundary, “does the influential power of our shemiras Shabbos reach. From this point and onwards its strength is weakened. If we would be stronger and more vigilant in our shemiras Shabbos, its influence would intensify and extend to the other side where there would also be no vehicular traffic.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Collective Responsibility By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

With the Viduy of the Kohen Gadol we see that he first confesses specifically to his own sins and transgressions. Then, when he comes to confess for his family, he once again states “v’chiper ba’ado” , in order to take charge of the responsibility that he has for his family. And then when he comes to confess for the nation, he once again repeats “v’chiper ba’ado,” because every Jew bears responsibility for the actions of every other Jew.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Accepting Responsibility By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

HaGaon R’ Yosef Sholom Elyashiv shlita explains that this demonstrates the proper process of viduy, confession. Generally, a person does not find anything about himself that is reprehensible, as it says, (Nega’im 2:5), “Kol hanego’im odom ro’eh chutz minega’ei atzmo – a person can see everyone else’s flaws except for his own.” The person recites the “Al Cheit”, but he doesn’t believe it really applies directly to him. The person who has worked on himself may feel that he has been weak in mitzvos, but he will not share a stake in the aveiros of others.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Viduy By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

In the Torah (Vayikra 16) the Viduy of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur states ”V’chiper ba’ado uv’ad baiso – and he shall provide atonement for himself and for his household.” However, later the pasuk tells us, “He shall provide atonement for himself and for his household, and for the entire congregation of Israel.” After he gains atonement for himself, and his family, he gains atonement for all of Klal Yisroel. Why does the pasuk always include the words “v’chiper ba’ado -- he shall gain atonement for himself”?
Indeed, Chazal tell us in Yuma 43 that first the Kohen Gadol has to confess his own sins in order that he should be meritorious when he comes to ask forgiveness for Klal Yisroel. But after he has already confessed his sins and succeeded in attaining atonement, why does the Torah repeat “v’chiper ba’ado”?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our Unpaid Loans By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Shraga Feivel answered her: “Are we better than this Yid? Every year we stand in judgment before Hashem during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and ask Him to forgive our aveiros. We plead for selichah and mechilah from Hashem, and we promise to be chozer b’teshuva shleimoh. Even though min hadin we do not deserve Hashem’s forgiveness since we have not repaid the old loan, so to speak, and done a complete teshuvah, we really aspire with all our heart to change for the better and we pray that Hakadosh Boruch Hu will listen to our cry. We return with this same request, year in and year out. Despite all our promises, we continue to revert to our former ways. At this present time, this merchant wholeheartedly intends to repay all his debts. If so, are we not obligated to fulfill his request?”

They both decided to give the merchant the additional loan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Merchant’s Audacity By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

A merchant once came to R’ Shraga Feivel Frank to borrow a large sum of money for a certain period of time. R’ Shraga Feivel graciously consented. However, when the loan came due, the merchant did not repay his debt. R’ Shraga Feivel, as was his minhag, did not confront the merchant to claim payment.

Weeks passed, and R’ Shraga Feivel found himself in need of money. His wife recalled the large loan he had given to that merchant, and suggested that they now approach the individual whose financial situation had greatly improved. The rebbetzin went to speak to the merchant about his outstanding loan and to request payment. She was shocked when the merchant defiantly refused to return the money and the rebbetzin returned home deeply upset. R’ Shraga Feivel, with great effort, tried to calm her down.

Time went by, and the same merchant returned to R’ Shraga Feivel – not to pay back the old debt, but to request an additional loan. He promised to repay both loans simultaneously on a specific date. R’ Shraga Feivel was stunned by the audacity of the merchant and said he would have to get back to him with an answer.

When he related this experience to his wife, she asked, “How could you think about lending him more money after the way he has conducted himself, with such chutzpah? I doubt that he will pay back either loan.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Cleansing for the Soul By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Yechezkel Levenstein explains that the upsurge in mitzvos cleanses the nefesh from the impurities of the body. From the time of the sin of Odom HaRishon the nefesh became impure; the Torah is a means by which man is able to return to our earlier state of purity and holiness.

The month of Tishrei, therefore, is a special present to the Bnai Yisroel. It is a charmed time in the year where our potential for greatness is limitless. Since Tishrei is so replete with mitzvos, its awesome responsibility may at times be overwhelming.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Accruing Merit By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
We read in the mishnah, “Rataoh Hakadosh Boruch Hu l’zakos es Yisroel l’fichach hirboh lohem Torah u’mitzvos -- Hashem Yisborach wanted to make the Bnai Yisroel worthy of merit, therefore He gave us a great amount of Torah and mitzvos.” During the month of Tishrei, when all of us pray that we are judged for a good year full of bracha and hatzlacha, we want to accrue as many zechuyos as possible. Therefore Hashem makes it easier for Klal Yisroel by affording us all these opportunities to fulfill an abundance of mitzvos. Simultaneously, as we are being judged, every moment of our day is spent in the performance of avodas Hashem.

People often approach me during these days to ask, “What should I be doing? What should I be thinking?” They want to know the proper mindset and attitude of going about their avodah during the months of Elul and Tishrei.

The medrash tells us (Shemos Rabba 24:3) that even though the Jewish people may go astray, Hashem cares for them as a loyal shepherd tends to his flock. The Maharzav comments that so too Hashem searches to find a merit for Yisroel and causes them to be worthy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Continuum of Mitzvos By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The gemara in Rosh Hashanah 10a explains that the month of Tishrei is named yerach ha’aisonim – the month of the mighty. Rashi explains there that is because the month of Tishrei is fortified with mitzvos.

Why specifically does the month of Tishrei have so many more mitzvos than any of the other months? It is a month when one literally proceeds from mitzvah to mitzvah, and at the same time that we are preoccupied with the performance of one mitzvah we are already making preparations for the fulfillment of the next mitzvah.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Power of Tzedakah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

We are all familiar with the Chazal, “Tzedakah tatzil mi’moves – charity saves from death.” One may wonder why it doesn’t say that Shabbos saves from death, or tefillin.

The great Rabbi Yisroel of Rizhin tells us that the reason tzedakah has this unusual power is because many times when a person gives tzedakah, he is not sure if he can really give as much as he is giving, or he exerts himself beyond his limitations to give tzedakah. So too, Hashem says, “In the merit of this person’s effort in extending himself to give tzedakah, I will make sure that the years that he is given will be extended as well.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Something That We Can Do By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

An interesting answer is presented. Teshuvah is somewhat of an art. A person has to know how to do teshuvah. He has to feel sorry; he has to regret what he has done; he has to confess to his sins. There are specific components of teshuvah that the Rambam mentions, which are sometimes not easily attainable.

Tefillah is also an art. There are many who have difficulty praying; it is a challenge to have the proper kavanah, intentions and feelings. Many books have been written, and many lectures have been given, on how to pray properly.

However, the last of the three, tzedakah, is something that each and every one of us can do. It doesn’t require special skill. We do not need to have any special kavonos. All we need is a feeling heart . It is something that is doable for everyone, regardless of background, level, or station in life. The power of tzedakah is in certain ways greater than any other mitzvah.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

One of the high points of the davening throughout the Yomim Noraim is when we reach the words “teshuvah, tefillah u’tzedakah maavirin es ro’a hagezeiroh – repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree!” We know that a person who is devout in conducting himself properly in these three areas will be judged for a good year. If we would recognize that the entire year ahead is riding upon the merit of these three deeds, we certainly would intensify our efforts.

The commentaries ask the following question: Why do we start with prayer, then repentance, and finally tzedakah?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Appropriate Baal Tokei’a By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

It was during the month of Elul, and Rav Levi Yitzchok was searching for a baal tokei’a for Rosh Hashanah. Yidden from all over flocked to R’ Levi Yitzchok to beg for the zechus to blow shofar for him.

R’ Levi Yitzchok took aside each applicant and asked, “What are your kavanos during the teki’as hashofar?” And each individual enumerated the lofty and holy machshovos to which he would be mechaven.

R’ Levi Yitzchok then approached the simple Yid, bent over a sefer in the corner of the bais hamedrash, who just hadn’t had the courage to even come close to the group of scholars huddled around the Rav. R’ Levi Yitzchok asked, “And what about you?”

The Yid trembled in the gadol’s presence and said, “Rebbi, I am a simple Jew with four daughters to marry, and I don’t even have a penny for a dowry. When it comes time for tekias shofar I will be mechaven ‘Ribono Shel Olam, may the teki’as shofar be according to Your will, and may the Ribono Shel Olam please fulfill my will and send zivugim for my daughters.’”
“You have the proper kavanos; you will be the appropriate ba’al tokei’a for Rosh Hashanah,” Rav Levi Yitzchok exclaimed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Accepting the Yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Chasam Sofer beautifully explains one of the reasons that we have the shofar is to inspire Am Yisroel to accept ol malchus Shomayim -- the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom. What is the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom? That is the responsibility of Torah and mitzvos.

Therefore, when the Soton hears the first set of tekios that we are blowing according to the mitzvah of the Torah he is frightened, but not totally terrified. For he still “comforts” himself, believing that Klal Yisroel will only accept upon themselves the mitzvos of the Torah but they will surely not accept the mitzvos of rabbinic origin. However at the time of tefillas mussaf, when we once again blow the shofar following the instructions of the chachamim, it is clear proof to the Soton that we regard the words of the chachamim the same as the words of the Torah itself, even to the point that the prohibition of bal tosif does not apply at all to their words. When the Soton realizes that we have accepted the yoke of Torah and also the mitzvos d’rabbanan he becomes completely horrified.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Alarming the Soton By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Talmud Yerushalmi states that when the first set of tekios are blown before Mussaf, the Soton is somewhat alarmed. When we once again blow the tekios that the chachamim instituted during the tefillas mussaf, the Soton becomes terrified. The early commentaries ask: How is it possible that the chachamim instituted the extra blowing of the shofar during tefillas mussaf seemingly adding on to the original mitzvah? We know that there is a Torah prohibition of adding on to the mitzvos.

The Rashba answers that the issue of “bal tosif, adding on to a mitzvah” is only applicable where the person puts in something on his own accord. However, if the chachamim instituted it for a specific need then there is no prohibition of bal tosif. Like it says in the Torah (Devarim 17:11)”according to the teachings that they will teach you … shall you do,” meaning that we are commanded to listen to the words of our chachamim.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Commemorating Akeidas Yitzchak By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

In contrast to the way we fulfill all the other mitzvos in the Torah, an interesting difference has been noted in our performance of the mitzvah of tekias shofar. With every other mitzvah, we reveal the mitzvah that we are about to perform. However, by the mitzvah of shofar we cover the mitzvah, and the shofar is not revealed until we are actually ready to perform the mitzvah. Why is this so?

We learn that when Avraham Avinu set out on his journey to offer Yitzchak as a korban, he was afraid that perhaps the Soton would want to prevent him from fulfilling this mitzvah. He would perhaps throw a stone in order to wound Yitzchak and thus invalidate him as a sacrifice. As a precaution, Avraham Avinu covered Yitzchak and concealed him from all eyes. To recall the great zechus of Avrahm Avinu and his mesiras nefesh to sacrifice his only son, we cover the shofar which is in itself a commemoration of Akeidas Yitzchak.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Shofar’s Message By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The question is presented though: If the bas kol rings out throughout the world and we can all hear the sound of the shofar, how is it possible that one doesn’t tremble?

The great gaon and tzaddik Harav Sholom Schwadron used to compare this to a man who came from a little village that was very primitive. The village had no running water and the villagers were totally unaware of any technological advances in the world around them.

One day, the villager had to leave for the big city, for the first time in his life. As he walked on the road, he noted that someone had been very thoughtful and considerate of the travelers. Wooden planks had been laid across the road, enabling the traveler to avoid the stones, dirt and mud along the road. In addition, two iron rails had been placed along either side to guide the traveler along the path.

Little did this villager realize that these were train tracks for a locomotive. A while later the wayfarer heard the consistent sounding of a whistle. A locomotive was quickly approaching on the tracks, but the villager thought that someone was playing music for his entertainment. He began to dance on the tracks, and the more the train blew its whistle, the more exuberant was his dance, until the inevitable finally happened.

Said Rav Schwadron: We all hear the sound of the shofar. Some dance. But others take heed and get off the path they are following in order to find the derech hayashar – the right road -- to life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Powerful Days of Elul By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The days of Elul are extremely powerful. After Bnai Yisroel transgressed with the Chet Ha’Egel, the Sin of the Golden Calf, and the Luchos were broken, Moshe Rabbeinu had to ascend to Har Sinai and daven for Bnai Yisroel to be forgiven. He went on Rosh Chodesh Elul and remained there for forty days until the tenth day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur, which signified the completion of the kapparah. It was at the end of this period that Hashem told Moshe, “p’sul lecho shnei luchos avanim karishonim – care for yourself two tablets of stone, like the first ones.”

The Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu tells us that the Bnai Yisroel fasted all the days that Moshe Rabbeinu went up on Har Sinai. On the fortieth day, Yom Kippur, they fasted day and night. Therefore, Yom Kippur has remained a day of kapparah forever. This period of forty days are deemed yemei ratzon – days of favor – and possess a unique power to evoke the midas harachamim – the Divine attribute of mercy. On each day that Moshe Rabbeinu was away, the Bnai Yisroel sounded the shofar in the camp so that they would not repeat their mistake in counting the days.

In commemoration, we too have the custom of blowing the shofar during the month of Elul, excluding Erev Rosh Hashanah when we do not blow in order to mark the difference between the tekios of Elul and the obligatory tekios of Rosh Hashanah.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heavenly Voices By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

For example in Pirkei Avos (6:2) R’ Yehoshua ben Levi says “b’chol yom vayom bas kol yotzeis mehar chorev umachrezes v’omeres: oy lohem labriyos mei’elbonah shel Torah – Every single day a heavenly voice emanates from Har Chorev, and calls out and says: Woe to creation because of the insult to the Torah.”

Similarly, the gemara in Taanis (24b) states, “omar rav yehuda omar rav b’chol yom vayom bas kol yotzeis v’omeres kol haolam nizun bishvil chanina bni; v’chanina bni dayo b’kav charuvim -- the whole world is sustained because of Chanina my son, and Chaninah my son subsists on a small measure of carob.”

When we begin to sound the shofar from Rosh Chodesh Elul, the intent is to arouse us to do teshuvah. That is the nature of the shofar, as the pasuk states (Amos 3:6) “Im yitoka shofar b’ir v’am lo yecheradu – is a shofar sounded in the city and the people don’t tremble?”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Sound of the Shofar By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Medrash Rabbah in Vayikra relates: R’ Abba Brei, the son of R’ Pappi, and R’ Yehoshua, said in the name of R’ Levi: “Kol yemos hashanah yisroel oskin b’melachtan ub’Rosh Hashanah notlin shofroseihen v’tokin lifnei hakodosh baruch hu. v’hu omed meikisei din l’kisei rachamim umismalei aleihem rachamim -- All the days of the year Bnai Yisroel are engaged in their work. On Rosh Hashanah they take their shofar and they sound it before Hashem.
Hashem gets up from the Chair of Judgment and moves to the Throne of rachamim and is filled with compassion for Bnai Yisroel.”

HaGaon HoRav Shalom Yosef Elyashiv cites the Eglei Tal who writes that every person is able to hear the sound of the shofar throughout the year inside of his heart, as many different Heavenly Voices have been allotted to the world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Exemplary Mitzvah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

That is the reason why R’ Chanina ben Tradyon asked, “Where do I stand in regard to olam haba?” Similarly, that is the rationale for the response given by R’ Yosi, “Were you ever in a challenging situation?” The implication was, “Did you ever carry out an exemplary mitzvah, with pure intent and no ulterior motive?”

R’ Chanina understood that his act of harbotzas Torah in public did not necessarily assure him the reward of olam haba. There was the possibility, however small, that he might not have done it totally l’shem shamayim. Perhaps there was an underlying motive, seeking honor and respect, that propelled his actions. The basic principle is that the mitzvos and maasim tovim that an individual does in the public eye may have an ulterior motive. If so, the person cannot be worthy of olam haba and cannot attain merit for the eternal world.

However, the maaseh which is done privately, which is undisclosed to the public, is the type of mitzvah that merits one a share in olam haba. Therefore, when R’ Chanina referred to his personal Purim money that had become combined with the general tzedakah fund for the poor, and yet he gave all the money to tzedakah, it was evident that the act was done with no ulterior motive and with no possible hope for honor.

Albeit the performance of this deed was a relatively small maaseh – it didn’t even involve a lot of money – the mitzvah had been executed b’shleimus: its kavanah (intent) was totally l’shem shamayim, for the sake of Heaven.

So precise were the holy Tannaim when they scrutinized the performance of their deeds and assessed the honesty and morality of their maasim. We too must be aware of the intensity of the judgment that is exercised upon Klal Yisroel in these special days of Elul, before the Yomim Noraim. May we all merit a shanah tovah umesukah.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Mitzvah with Kavanah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

This is explained by the Rambam in his Pirush Mishnayos on Makkos concerning the mishnah of R’ Chananya ben Akashya, who stated, “Hashem wanted to grant Klal Yisroel merit; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundance.”

The foundation of our emunah is predicated on the belief that if one fulfills the 613 mitzvos properly, without any ulterior motive other than his strong love for Hashem, the individual merits olam haba, the next world. But the Rambam takes this further by expounding on the statement of R’ Chananya. He contends that the reason Hashem presented us with such a large number of mitzvos is to enhance our odds of success. With the availability of such a multitude of mitzvos to fulfill, it would be highly improbable that the individual was unable to fulfill even one of them with the appropriate and complete kavanah that the Torah intends. In that way, with the performance of that mitzvah, the person revives his nefesh.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Strange Conversation By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

HaGaon Moran Harav Shach questions this strange exchange. In light of the mesiras nefesh that R’ Chanina exerted in order to disseminate Torah to the masses at a time when it was absolutely forbidden by the Roman empire, why did R’ Chanina find it necessary to ask R’ Yosi whether he merits olam haba?

And, by the same token, why did R’ Yosi have to corroborate that R’ Chanina had faced a difficult dilemma in his life -- i.e. his personal Purim money became combined with the general tzedakah fund for the poor -- and he was mevater (conceded) on his own money? He could have simply replied to R’ Chanina’s question by citing his mesiras nefesh on behalf of harbotzas Torah?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Answer By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Yosi was disturbed. “I am telling you things that are factual and significant; and you are telling me of the supernatural, that from Heaven they will have mercy on you [meaning that R’ Chanina is relying on a miracle]. I would be surprised if they don’t burn you and the Torah in the fire.”

R’ Chanina said to R’ Yosi: “Where do I stand in regard to olam haba?”

So R’ Yosi replied, “Did you ever find yourself placed in a challenging situation?”

R’ Chanina replied in the affirmative, that his personal Purim money had once become mixed up with the general tzedakah funds, and he dispensed all the money to the poor, without trying to recover his own share.

So R’ Yosi said to R’ Chanina: “If that is so, let my portion in Torah be from your share, and let my lot and maasim tovim be from your lot.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Question By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The gemara states in Avodah Zarah 18a: “Tanu rabbanan … Our rabbis taught that when R’ Yosi Ben Kisma became ill R’ Chanina ben Tradyon came to visit him.

R’ Yosi said to R’ Chanina: “Chanina, my brother, don’t you know that from Heaven it has been decreed that the Roman nation should be rulers over us? They have destroyed the Bais Hamikdash, burned the Kodesh Kodoshim, killed the righteous ones, and caused His wise men to perish. And yet this ruler continues to exist.

“I have heard about you that you sit and you learn Torah, which has been banned by the government. And that you gather public assemblies to teach Torah, with a Torah resting on your lap.”

R’ Chanina replied to R’ Yosi: “From Shamayim they will have mercy on me,” meaning that he would be shielded with Divine protection.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teshuvah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

I would like to suggest that there are numerous chesed opportunities for one to get involved in – an organization, a yeshiva, a hospital, shidduchim, and particularly any chesed that one could do specifically for our brethren in need in Eretz Yisroel.

Perhaps the most important effort we can make on a personal level is to do teshuvah, to utilize this time as a period of introspection in which we examine our behavior bein adam laMakom and bein adam l’chaveiro.

We pray in Shemone Esrei for forgiveness from Hashem – slach lanu avinu … mechal lanu … -- we express our sincere regret and our longing to make amends. In the very next bracha, we ask Hashem re’eh na b’anyeinu – please, Hashem, see our afflictions and redeem us, blessed are You, Hashem, redeemer of Israel.

The sequence is very explicit. First we must do a sincere teshuvah, then we can merit the geulah and ask Hashem to redeem us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Praying for Rain By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

We learn that any time rain was needed, the chachamim would come to Aba Chilkiyah, the grandson of Choni HaMagol, and ask him to daven. Once there was a great famine, and the chachamim sent two rabbis to ask Aba Chilkiyah to daven for rain. They first went to his house; but he was not at home. They later found him working in the fields. When he reached his home, he said quietly to his wife, “I know that these rabbis came to ask me to pray for rain. Let us go to the attic and daven. If it is the will of Hashem, then rain will come and it will not be obvious that we were the ones who davened for it.”

They both ascended to the attic to pray -- Aba Chilkiyah went to one corner and his wife went to the opposite corner. There was an astonishing occurrence when the rain cloud was noted to hover over the corner where Aba Chiliyah ‘s wife stood.

Aba Chilkiyah then went down to greet the rabbis. He asked why they had come and they explained that they were sent by the chachamim to ask him to pray for rain. “But,” they asked, “can you tell us why the rain clouds appeared in your wife’s corner first?”

Aba Chilkiyah answered them, “Because my wife is the one at home. She immediately helps the poor and the needy who come to the door.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Torah, Tefillah and Maasim Tovim By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Tefillah, as we learned above, has to be one that emanates from the depths of the heart. It must be a tefillah that moves us to tears, to beg Hashem for full Siyata d’Shmaya in defeating our enemies. The power of everyone’s tefillah is not to be underestimated. Even the tefillah of one individual can have a major impact on the heavens.

The pasuk tells us in Yeshayah (1:27): Tzion b’mishpot tipodeh v’shoveho b’tzedakah – tzedakah and good deeds will bring our redemption. The performance of every good deed has a powerful influence in Shamayim.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Acheinu Bnei Yisroel By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Over the last few years, world attention has been focused on our Holy Land. Anti-semitic remarks have been made throughout the world from leaders of the UN, to people who are insane, to admired Hollywood stars. It is impossible for us to continue with our regular daily activities as we grasp the enormity of the transpiring events.

Rav Mordechai Gifter z”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva, used to say yisroel lev ha’amim – Bnai Yisroel are the heart of the world. We understand that it is an eis tzarrah – a time of distress -- for Yaakov. We fully realize that we share equal responsibility for everything that happens to our brethren in Eretz Yisroel, and therefore we all seek for means and ways of helping the matzav.

We can offer invaluable support and chizuk for all of Klal Yisroel with our effectiveness in three major areas: tefillah, learning, and maasim tovim.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Gates of Tears By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Tiferes Shlomo explains that one should not feel that chas v’sholom the tefillos of Klal Yisroel are not accepted. However, when the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, the main tefillah of Klal Yisroel is to cry out about the exile of the Divine Presence, the Shechinah. Our main concern is to pray for Hashem. When a person is mispallel and cries over the galus haShechinah, then the gates of tears are not closed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Gates of Tefillah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Elozor said: Since the days when the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed the Gates of Tefillah have been closed, as it says, “Yes, when I cry and I call for help, He quiets my tefillah.” But though the Gates of Tefillah are closed, the Gates of Weeping are not closed, as it says, “Hear my tefillah, Hashem, and give an ear to my cry, please be not silent at my tears.” (Brachos 32b)

The Meiri says that after the Churban Bais HaMikdash Hashem certainly continues to answer our tefillos. However, it is not the same as it was during the time that the Bais HaMikdash was standing, and therefore, we have to “knock” on the gates before our tefillos are answered.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The World in Which We Live By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

In the evening he began to reflect on his first day of life with the middas ha’emes. He was pained and full of sorrow when he realized what he had done and the untold agmas nefesh he had caused so many sincere individuals. How would he ever be able to repair what he had destroyed that day?

He then grasped the concept that living among people required a unique blend of middos. Just as we are enjoined to embrace the truth with two hands and to reject the sheker, there are often situations that must be tempered with a smidgen of sheker in order to maintain righteousness in peace and tranquility.

In fact, the shakran for once had spoken the truth. A person cannot live without a little bit of sheker. For at times emes can destroy and sheker can build!

Tzedek tzedek tirdof – the person has to be meticulous to implement both the middah of tzedakah and the middah of emes. The recounting of Hashem’s conversation with Avraham Avinu, on the other hand, teaches us that emes at times acquiesces to tzedakah, that which is right, in order to maintain peace and harmony among people.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Man of Truth By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

However, when the “Man of Truth” heard this, he said, “If I could only be relieved from having to see you and your despicable face.”

The woman was horrified at her master’s unusual response to her blessing. But then he began to enumerate for her all his complaints. With a heavy heart, the maidservant left the house.

Upon his return from shul, the young man remembered to visit his wealthy childless uncle who had fallen ill and was looking forward to visitors. As he walked towards his uncle’s house, he mentally began to calculate the huge sums of money he would inherit upon the death of this uncle. With this in mind, and no conscious thought of deceit, our “Man of Truth” entered his uncle’s house. When he came into the sickroom, the young man remarked, “My dear uncle, I’m so happy to see you looking so ill. I am optimistic that you will not leave the bed upon which you are lying, and I look forward to becoming wealthy from the inheritance of your possessions.” He candidly continued to speak his mind, until the afflicted uncle finally banished him from the house.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Face of Deceit By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Ben Ish Chai offers an unbelievable parable of a young man who, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, began to contemplate the shortcoming of this world which is filled with flattery and deceit. His imagination began to conjure up an ideal world where sheker was completely uprooted. As he became lost in his thought, he drifted off to sleep.

He dreamed of a little creature who appeared before him and presented as Sheker. The young man wrestled with Sheker, however he was finding it very difficult to knock him down. “I am not easily defeated,” he called out. “Don’t you realize how much I good I do for the briyos each day?” It was difficult to maintain an ongoing discussion with Sheker as his appearance kept changing, from somebody young to somebody old, from a nice-looking individual to a disgusting being, and from green to red.

They finally reached an agreement whereby the being named Sheker would not reappear for one entire day. He would allow the young man twenty-four hours of respite, free of any involvement with Sheker, or deceit.

The young man was absolutely delighted with this plan and woke up. When he opened his eyes, his faithful maidservant was standing near his bed and offered him a bottle of water. She said to him, “May you have a good new year with all of its blessings.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Peace vs. Truth By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The acts of Hashem are a paradigm for all generations. This particular modification that Hashem made when He repeated His conversation with Sarah to Avraham is to teach us that the quality of peace is even more important than the quality of truth.

The middah of emes has its boundaries. If a person uses it at all times and in all places, without considering the situation at hand, he can harm himself. This would in fact not be a middah chassidus, an extra measure of piety, but rather something that is foolish and forbidden.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Being in Pursuit By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Tzedek tzedek tirdof l’maan tichye v’yorashto es ha’aretz … (Devarim 16:20) – Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land…

The obvious translation of these words is that a person must pursue “tzedek” – to seek ways that will enable him to increase righteousness and tzedakah in the land.

However, the Ben Ish Chai undertakes to comprehend the true meaning of the word tirdof – to pursue, which usually indicates a lashon of hisnagdus – opposition and conflict, and why the word tzedek is repeated twice.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lifnim Mishuras HaDin: Yesterday By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

R’ Moshe Chaim Luzatto, likewise, in the fourth chapter of Mesilas Yesharim, cites that Yaakov was brought to task over the fact that he hid Dinah from Eisav. The act is categorized as “lamas meirei’eihu chesed – he holds back kindness from his fellow” (Iyov 6:14). Yaakov was certainly not permitted to arrange a marriage between Eisav and Dinah, as Eisav was a mumar, and Yaakov was prohibited from giving his daughter in marriage to an am ha’aretz. Moreover, if he wanted Dinah to marry someone else, Yaakov was certainly not obligated to give Dinah to Eisav in marriage. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the fact that Yaakov acted in accordance with the Torah (as stated in Pesachim 49b) he did not proceed lifnim mishuras hadin – go further than the halacha requires. If he would have allowed Dinah to marry Eisav, he would have performed an extraordinary chesed for his brother Eisav, by offering him the opportunity to improve. What is more, Yaakov failed to be pained by the reality that his brother Eisav was a rosho and he, Yaakov, could have improved his brother’s lot by permitting him to marry his daughter, Dinah.

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Added Element of Kedusha By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

This is also the explanation given for the gemara in Nedarim that states that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because Klal Yisroel did not recite the brachos preceding their learning of Torah. Although they fulfilled the core mitzvah of limud Torah, they were remiss in imbuing their learning with that extra spirit and energy to bring it to a higher plane. Their kavanos in learning were uninspired by an input from their soul, obviating the necessary fulfillment of kedoshim tiheyu. The neglect of that mitzvah is what brought about the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Developing the Innate Kedusha By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Similarly, Chazal tell us in Bava Metzia 30b that Yerushalayim was destroyed because the courts ruled by the laws of the Torah – they only did exactly what they had to do, v’lo ovdu lifnim mishuras hadin -- and they didn’t do any more. They were not motivated to exert themselves on behalf of others in Klal Yisroel.

Ostensibly, this is difficult to understand, for we are saying that despite the fact that the courts followed the law, Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdash were destroyed for lack of a generous spirit.

But if we explain this aveiroh in the context of the transgression of the mitzvah of kedoshim tiheyu, one can easily comprehend the judgment in the gemara. By circumventing the very reason for their creation, Klal Yisroel violated a basic tenet of the Torah which demands the development and nurturing of their innate kedusha and their continual ascent to higher levels in spirituality. In fact, this ability to attain a level of kedoshim tiheyu is only given to human beings; it is not applicable to malachim, angels.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Shall Be Holy By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The mitzvah of kedoshim tiheyu enjoins one not to indulge in excess, even in those activities which are permissible by Torah law. Accordingly, if one does not temper his actions it is possible he may be a “novol b’reshus haTorah – dishonorable within the parameters of Torah.” In such a case, then, the individual is faulted in Shamayim and is considered worthy of severe punishment, because he has failed to understand the significance of man as a part of Hashem.

In the Sefer Machsheves Mussar, Maran HaRav Shach states that the manifestation of kedoshim tiheyu is defined by man’s aspiration to elevate himself higher, to reach a loftier spiritual pinnacle. The objective of our existence is not merely to abstain from wrongdoing; rather, the purpose of man is to strive for the ideal of kedoshim tiheyu. It is for this reason -- the fact that he is no longer exerting a determined effort to attain a level of “kedoshim tiheyu” – that the ben sorer u’moreh warrants such a severe punishment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rebellious Son By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Talmud in Sanhedrin in discussing the matter of a ben sorer u’moreh -- a thirteen-year-old son who rebels against his parents and steals from them -- states that there never has been in history, nor will there ever be in the future, such an occurrence. Chazal explain there that this incident was cited in order for us to learn about it, expound on it, and receive reward for doing so.

The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, 1194-1270) was one of the greatest and most influential Rishonim, distinguished in both halacha and hashkafah. He introduces an interesting concept with regard to this matter.

The Ramban explains that there are two sins for which the ben sorer u’moreh deserves punishment. One punishment is incurred for cursing his father and mother and rebelling against them, which we can understand. The second punishment is for being a glutton and a drunkard, an act that transgresses the mitzvah of kedoshim tiheyu – you shall be holy (Vayikra 19:2).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Our Relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

So too, says the Chofetz Chaim, is our relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. We pray, “Avinu malkeinu -- our Father, our King. have mercy upon us. Give us to understand and to be wise. Enlighten our eyes with the Torah and with yiras Shamayim.”

Hashem is a merciful king and wishes to grant our request. However, we don’t come to collect payment. There is no one to blame. It is as if we were talking in our sleep – sometimes our ears do not hear what our mouth is speaking.

Similarly, we daven to Hashem every Shabbos for “… zara di lo yifsuk v’di lo yivtul mipisgamei oraysa – children who will neither interrupt nor cease from words of Torah.” We have to make sure that our ears are listening to what our mouths are saying.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Lack of Communication By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The Chofetz Chaim relates a parable of a poor person who exerted himself to get a contribution from a wealthy man. He sent many different messengers to ask the wealthy man for an audience. Then he himself went to the rich man to ask him to have rachmanus. The rich man agreed and set up an appointment to meet the poor man the next day in his office, at which time he would grant him his request.

A week went by and the man did not show up. When the two met again, the poor man repeated his plea, and asked the rich man to have rachmanus and lend him the money he needed.

The wealthy man replied, “I never rescinded on my promise. Come to the office tomorrow.”

To his surprise, the poor man didn’t show up the next day either. The wealthy man was puzzled. Who or what could be thwarting the poor man from keeping the appointment?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Destruction of the Bais HaMikdash By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

HaGaon R’ Yosef Sholom Elyashiv shlita suggests that the difficulty here is not why no one could answer Hashem’s query. It is important for us to clarify what was the cause of this generation’s downward spiral, of their spiritual decline that they did not recite these brachos.

The answer is that the men, the fathers, devalued the importance of the Torah. Outwardly it appeared as if the Torah was being studied and the mitzvos were being performed. In truth, however, the transmission of the Torah to the second generation had been compromised because the initial attachment and love for the Torah was no longer extant. The fathers’ warmth for Torah had diminished, and therefore the children could not longer accept the Torah with the same enthusiasm. The ideal of (Yeshayah 59:21) “u’dvorai asher samti b’ficha lo yomushu mipicha umipi zaracha … My words that I have placed in your mouth shall not be withdrawn from your mouth and the mouths of your children …” was disregarded. Ultimately, with each subsequent generation there was a spiritual deterioration which finally led to the destruction of the First Temple.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Respect for Torah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

With this concept, the Sefer Divrei Aggadah offers an understanding of the destruction of the First Bais Hamikdash. Hashem asked the Bnai Yisroel (Yirmiyah 9:11) “Al mah ovdoh ha’aretz – why was the Bais Hamikdash destroyed?” No one knew how to answer the question, despite the fact that the nation had transgressed the three severe aveiros of giluy arayos, shefichas damim and avodah zarah – immorality, murder, and idol worship.

Our sages tell us that Hashem’s answer, “Al azvam es torasi – they forsook My Torah,” actually refers to the reality that the people did not recite Birchos haTorah before they engaged in Torah study. The Ran in Mesechta Nedarim explains that they lacked the proper veneration for the Torah, and therefore did not see the need to recite the obligatory blessings.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Importance of Torah By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The pasuk in Devarim (6:7) states, “V’shinantam l’vonecha v’dibarta bam … -- and you shall teach them to your children and you shall speak of them.”

The Vilna Gaon once commented that this small paragraph of Krias Shema contains all of the Aseres HaDibros – Ten Commandments. For example, the first dibrah (commandment) of “Anochi, I am your G-d,” is represented by the words “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad,”. We learn that the commandment of “Lo Sirtzach – one shall not kill,” is alluded to in this parsha with the word “v’shinantam – and you shall teach your children.”

How is this parallel drawn? The Sifri states that one who does not teach his son Torah it is as if he has murdered him. Whether or not the person intends to do so, or is aware of the repercussion of his inaction, the ultimate result is equivalent to murdering his child. One could compare this to the animal who loves her young and holds it closely and hugs it so tightly until the life is squeezed out of the baby animal.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Relationship between the Body and the Soul By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

So too is the relationship between the neshamah and the guf of Klal Yisroel. Every mitzvah that the neshamah wants to perform is controlled by the guf. The hands have to take action in order to wear the tefillin and to light Shabbos candles; the feet have to take the steps in order to go to bais medrash. If the physical body consents to the will and the bidding of the person’s neshamah then he can fulfill the mitzvah. However, if the guf does not cooperate, the neshamah will not enjoy any benefit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Agreement By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

A wealthy man, looking for a shidduch for his only daughter, was keen on a particular bachur who was outstanding in Torah and middos. The father of the bachur, however, lived in a distant city, so the rich man sent his luxurious carriage so that they could make the arrangements in person.

However, when the two men met, the father of the young man was unwilling to agree to the shidduch. The wealthy man then offered him a huge sum of money to win him over. “If you will agree to the shidduch now, I will give you 400 additional zuz.” However, the father of the bachur was not amenable.

The father then turned to the young man himself and convinced him to agree to the shidduch, which he did. The shidduch was formalized without the consent of the father. After they had signed the tena’im, the father of the chosson approached the rich man and asked him for the 400 zuz. The father of the kallah said, “I promised you that money only if you would assent to the shidduch; now that the agreement has already been formalized and signed without your haskamah I don’t owe you anything.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Setting for Kedusha By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

The question that is obviously asked is: What reason was there for not disclosing the site of the Bais HaMikdash to Dovid? Mefarshim offer various answers. Some say that had Arnon found out that the Bais HaMikdash would be built on his land, he would have demanded a large sum of money for the property. Others suggest that the nations might have been motivated then to erect avodah zarah on that location in order to invalidate it as the future site for the Bais HaMikdash.

The Sefer Ta’am Vo’Daas proffers a profound thought. He explains that the makom hamikdash was going to be the holy place where the Shechinah would dwell. Such a high level of kedusha that would be appropriate for the concentration of the Divine Presence could only be achieved with the input of deep soul-searching, toil, and hard work. Thus, Dovid HaMelech exerted every effort in order to find and create a site suitable for this kedusha. In fact, that is why Dovid was resolute about paying Arnon “kesef molei – the full price”. When Klal Yisroel is concerned and troubled in their effort to establish a makom kadosh, that in itself merits the dwelling of the Divine Presence, the Shechinah.

The same is true concerning the performance of mitzvos. One can only merit a mitzvah by exercising yegi’ah, hard work, in order to reach his goal. The gratification of the neshamah is dependent on the effort and willingness of the guf.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Site of the Bais HaMikdash By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

In discussing the makom hamikdosh, the posuk tells us (Devarim 12:5), “Ki im el hamakom asher yivchar Hashem Elokeichem – only at the place that Hashem, your G-d will choose.” The Torah does not state exactly where that place is. With respect to this observation, the Gemara in Zevachim 54 states, similarly, that when Dovid and Shaul were going to build the Bais HaMikdash they did not know the exact designation for its location.

Divrei HaYamim (I, 21:16) relates the sequence of events in which the site of the Bais HaMikdash was revealed to Dovid HaMelech. “Dovid raised his eyes and saw the angel of Hashem standing between the earth and heaven, with his sword drawn in his hand, stretched out over Yerushalyaim. David and the zekeinim, who were covered in sackcloth, fell on their faces.” Dovid HaMelech found himself at the threshing floor of Arnon HaYevusi. The angel of Hashem then told Gad, the Navi, to instruct Dovid to erect an altar to Hashem at that place. The pesukim continue that Dovid then approached Arnon and requested, “Give me the site of the threshing floor so that I may build an altar to Hashem in it. Give it to me for the full price ….” Although Arnon insisted that he wanted to give his land to Dovid at no charge, Dovid refused the offer and gave Arnon gold shekels weighing six hundred.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Khal Bais Yitzchok Drashah Draws Huge Crowd By Yosef Gesser

One of the highlights of the pre-Pesach season in the Flatbush Jewish community is the annual Shabbos Hagadol Drashah of Klal Bais Yitzchok delivered by its much-beloved mara d'asra, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser. The drashah took place this past Shabbos Parashas Metzora, 7 Nisan/April 12 at Edward R. Murrow High School. Yidden walked in from outlying areas as well to attend this kiddush Hashem.

The Rav began his drashah by noting that preparations for Pesach are taking place on the heels of various tzaros that have rocked Klal Yisrael recently – in Eretz Yisrael, in the United States and in Europe. In addition, many people presently face daunting challenges in their private lives.

He cited Chazal who tell us that on Pesach, which is the chag ha'geulah, the festival of redemption, one in enjoined to regard himself as if he had come out from Mitzrayim. Yet, the Sefas Emes tells us that the inyan of geulah applies at this time not only on a communal level but on a personal one as well. This zeman gives a person the potential to extricate himself from his own personal "Mitzrayim," each with its attendant hardships. We see from here that Pesach is a time of hope and encouragement for the individual as well as for the klal.

There is a custom mentioned by the Shelah to kiss the matzah and marror before eating them, to show the simchah and the chavivus (preciousness) with which we approach these mitzvos. Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, commented that while this custom in regard to the matzah is readily understandable since matzah brings to mind our redemption one may wonder why it applies to marror which represents the bitterness of Egyptian bondage. He explains that kissing the marror implies kabbalas yissurim b’ahavah, acceptance of suffering with love. Such willingness on the part of those undergoing adversity will serve as a powerful zechus which can cause the yissurim to be lessened or even removed.

Rav Goldwasser noted that in passage “Matzah Zoh” in the Haggadah we read that Bnei Yisrael left Mitrayim with matzos since upon Hashem’s revelation that the time of redemption was at hand they had to leave imminently and had no time to allow the dough to rise or to prepare other provisions. We learn from here that when considering a worthwhile undertaking, we should be careful not to be overcautious, burdening ourselves with questions and calculations and thereby risk losing a valuable opportunity. An example of this is the irrelevant, foolish questions people ask in regard to a shidduch possibility or not attending a shiur because of minor inconveniences. Bnei Yisrael’s hasty exodus from Mitzrayim is a model for us to avoid overcomplicating our lives and thus missing opportunities.

On Echad Mi Yodei’a in the Haggadah, the Rav quoted Hagaon Harav Elazar Shach, zt”l, who said that the words Echad Ani Yodei’a and Shnayim Ani Yodei’a which refer respectively to knowing Hashem and knowing the Torah, represent everything a person needs to know; all else is nonessential.

He related that a yungerman once came to Rav Shach with the idea that the Rosh Yeshivah should get involved with a scandalous situation. The Rosh Yeshivah asked him, “Why is it that you are aware of this and I am not?” While Rav Shach was unsparing in the guidance he provided Klal Yisrael, he felt involvement with this particular matter would be unnecessary and a distraction from the ikkar – Torah and avodas Hashem.

Rav Goldwasser spoke about how the wonderful middah of savlanus (patience) enhances one’s life. Fathers sometimes wish to convey lengthy, profound divrei Torah at the Seder, and have little patience for their children’s more elcmentary Torah thoughts they were looking forward to share. The father should muster the patience to give the spotlight to his children even if he won’t be able to cnvey all that he prepared, he said.

In a similar vein, the Rav spoke about how important it is to be mevater (give in) to others in daily situations and insisting on “one’s rights.” This could be in shalom bayis situation or even when drivers contend over a parking space. To illustrate the tremendous zechus that is generated when one is mevater to another, the Rav related that in a certain shul two bar mitzvah bachurim were erroneously scheduled to lein on Shabbos Parashas Yisro of that year. Shortly beforehand, after both bachurim had spent months preparing, the mistake was discovered. Fortunately, one bachur volunteered he would step aside and let the other read the parashah.

Several years later this bachur who gave up the honor found himself in the hospital with his mother who faced a critical medical situation. A decision had to be made with the input of daas Torah.

That Friday Hagaon Harav Elyashiv, shlita, entered that very hospital for observation where he would remain for Shabbos. It was the week of Parashas Yisro and someone was needed to lein for Rav Elyashiv. Having once carefully prepared this parashah the bachur volunteered for their privilege and was accepted. After leining for the Rav, the bachur was able to speak to the Rav about his mother’s predicament and came away with a psak and a brachah for her full recovery.

Rav Goldwasser commented that Hashem never forgets a commendable deed and always pays back at some point in time.
As every year, the Rav concluded with a request for assistance in providing Yom Tov provisions for the families in need.

The drashah was dedicated in part by Kosher Palace of Avenue U in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The Haggadah states: “The Torah speaks of four sons, one wise, one wicked …” HaGaon Rav Yisroel Lubchansky asks: Why does the Hagaddah identify the son as a chacham-- wise? It would seem that the title of tzaddik, as the opposite of rosho, would be more appropriate.

Chazal tell us in Mesechta Tamid 32a, “Who is truly wise, one who sees what will happen in the future.”

The Alter of Kelm states that Chazal’s use of the word “sees” indicates that the wise person not only thinks about and contemplates the outcome of his actions, but actually visualizes – sees in his mind’s eye -- the consequences of his deeds.

The Tshebiner Rov adds another facet to this thought, alluding to the gemara (Nedarim 30b), which discusses an oath that is made to abstain from that which doesn’t yet exist, i.e. an unborn calf. The Tshebiner Rov explains that some people actually perceive the future as already existing in the present, unlike others to whom the future is a nebulous haze. To the person who is wise, that which exists in the present, and that which shall be in the future, converge as one.

In addition, states the Yosher Mesilah, one needs to “see” his deeds as well as the path along which his endeavors will take him. The deed, in and of itself, may be good; however, he may observe, upon reflection, that its direction will ultimately lead him astray.

In fact, the Kochvei Ohr comments that if one was indeed able to deliberate with a clear mind, concentrating on the Yom HaDin and the rewards or punishments decreed upon each individual at that time, he would then have no need to study any mussar seforim. However, in truth, we all become so preoccupied with our daily concerns that we are unable to completely focus on this concept. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to engage in the inspirational study of mussar, because one who is vigilant in picturing the future as it relates to himself and his deeds will be better equipped to refrain from doing an aveiroh.

Rabbeinu Yonah explains in Shaarei Teshuvah that man’s urgent desire for something is what prompts him to do wrong, for example to steal a piece of bread because he is hungry. Although he is understandably aware that he may very well be brought to justice down the road and be penalized more than the stolen piece of bread is actually worth, he nevertheless commits the offense. The reason, concludes Rabbeinu Yonah, is because he did not in fact visualize the retribution in a concrete and real manner.

Similarly, the mishnah states (Avos 3:1) “Look at three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: Know from where you came, where you are going, and before Whom you will give justification and reckoning.”

The chachamim used the loshon of “histakel – to look,” rather than “to reflect”. The reason is because we are obligated to look at life from a Torah perspective, and to see it as if it was clearly in front of us.

That is how the tzaddik became a chacham. The rosho, however, is not interested in looking. He acts impulsively, in the here and now.

This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our gedolei Yisroel, describes R’ Yecheskel Abramsky. They can look into the distance, and they can see more than the other people. The nation of Israel consults with its Torah leaders, like a person who can’t see from far and asks his friend, “Can you see that over there? Can you read it for me?”

It was during 1948, after the Arabs had captured the Old City, and the Yidden had been taken into captivity, including the Brisker Rov and his family.

Suddenly the phone in his home rang, and the person on the other end stated he was calling on behalf of the Israeli government. They had run out of ammunition, and they were considering forfeiting Yerushalayim and offering to negotiate with the Arabs.

The Brisker Rov responded, “What will you say to them? That you want peace? They will realize that you are greatly disadvantaged. When they hear that they will kill out all the inhabitants of the city. Do not say anything to them at all.”

The government listened to the advice of the godol. That day there was no fighting at all; the guns were silent. The Jews couldn’t fight because they actually had no ammunition to use.

The next morning a tremendous arsenal of ammunition was sent through the Czechoslovakian government, and the Jews were once again well equipped to fight the war.

Note: The annual Shabbos HaGadol drasha, given by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, is open to the entire community and will take place this Shabbos, April 12th at 6:00 PM. The drasha will be held in the Edward R. Murrow High School, located on Avenue L between E. 16th and E. 17th Street in Midwood, with ample seating for men and women. Mincha will follow at Khal Bais Yitzchok, 2016 Avenue L.