Category Archives: Sefer Devarim

Parshas Ha’azinu: The Journey is Painful but the Destination Makes it Worthwhile!

Parshas Ha’azinu

The Journey is Painful but the Destination Makes it Worthwhile!


“The Rock, His actions are pure, for all his ways are just… He is righteous and straight.” (Devarim 32:4)

In 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown. The Ayatollah Khomeini was soon going to take over. There was a reign of terror against the Jews. One day, a gang of thugs entered a carpet store and killed the Jewish owner, claiming that he was an agent of the Shah. The man’s widow knew she and her children had to leave the country, as did many other Jews. They were not permitted to leave legally. She contacted a man who smuggled Jews out of Iran for a large sum of money. She had to leave most of her wealth behind and could not pack suitcases, lest that arouse suspicion. She couldn’t even tell her children in advance, lest they inadvertently let the news slip. She, her children, and a group of other Jews met the guide at the edge of Tehran, in the middle of the night. For the first few days, they rode on camels for 18 hours straight. The pain was excruciating but each time they complained, the guide told them to be quiet. If they wouldn’t, he would shoot them! By day, the sun scorched them and left their throats parched with thirst. By night they froze. As the mountains got steeper, they switched to riding donkeys. Often, the path was so narrow that one wrong move could cause them to fall to their instant death. There were many difficult obstacles along the way. Each time anyone hesitated, the guide threatened to shoot. This torturous journey lasted for two and a half weeks. When they finally reached the safety of the Turkish border, the guide suddenly embraced the children. With tears in his eyes, he apologized for being so tough. He said that had he not been, the group would not have reached safety alive. (It’s All a Gift by Miriam Adahan)

Our lives are a journey which is often treacherous and filled with pain. We can be sure that when we reach the next world, the World of Truth, we will see that Hashem, our Guide, always loved us. Then we will understand that all the difficulties we went through were necessary to reveal the G-Dliness in us and in others. (It’s All a Gift by Miriam Adahan)

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once remarked, “If I were the Master of the world, I would not change anything. I have no doubt whatsoever that all Hashem does is for man’s benefit. It is our own shortcomings that make it so difficult for us to perceive the fairness of his ways.” (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin)

The Chofetz Chaim once asked a visitor how he was doing. The man responded, “Not bad. But it wouldn’t hurt if things were a little bit better”. The Chofetz Chaim responded, “How do you know that it wouldn’t hurt? Hashem is merciful and knows better than you what is truly for your benefit. If Hashem decided not to give you more that is because Hashem knows that giving you more would be bad for you”.  (Chofetz Chaim on the Torah)

The Torah says, “He [Hashem] awakens His nest like an eagle, hovering over its chicks” (Devarim 32:11). Rashi explains that the mother eagle is full of pity towards her young and does not enter her nest suddenly. First, she beats and flaps her wings above the nest, in order that her young may awaken and have enough strength to receive her.

When the mother eagle teaches its young to fly, she carries them high into the sky. Then she drops her babies! Before they hit the ground, the mother eagle swoops down to catch them. The Akeidas Yitzchak says that Hashem deals with us in a similar way. Hashem gives us trials and tribulations, not as punishments but to educate us and prod us to improve our ways.  (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin)



The Talmud (Brachos 7A) says that Moshe questioned Hashem why some good people suffer while other good people prosper. And why do some evil people prosper while others suffer? The Midrash says that after Hashem answered Moshe’s question, Moshe saw a scene unfold in front of him. A weary traveler passed a spring of water and refreshed himself. He continued his journey and did not realize that he had left his wallet near the spring. A second traveler passed by the spring. He saw the wallet and took it for himself. A third traveler then came. He took a drink from the spring and sat down to rest. Meanwhile, the first traveler returned to get his wallet. He asked the third traveler about it, who denied having seen it. The first traveler did not believe him and killed him. Moshe could not understand why Hashem permitted an honest man to be killed while the guilty man went unpunished. It seemed that Hashem was unjust! Hashem explained to Moshe that there was more to the story than he had seen. Hashem went on to explain to Moshe how His actions were totally just and fair. (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin) Life is like a jigsaw puzzle. We only see part of the puzzle. Hashem knows the entire picture-past, present, and future.

We all have challenges in life. Some of us seem to have more difficult challenges than others. Perhaps we can feel more supported through our challenges if we realize that Hashem, our Guide, is acting lovingly and for our ultimate benefit. It may also be comforting to know that one day, after 120 years, we will understand why we were given our challenges. When we finally understand the reason for them,

we will be actually be thankful to Hashem for giving them to us.


Parshas Vayelech: I Am Certain that You Can Do It!

Parshas Vayelech

I Am Certain that You Can Do It!


“Moshe went and spoke these things to all Israel. He said to them…“ (Devarim 31:1-2)

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her “Mom, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child … “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.” Many years after Edison’s mother had died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day he was going through a closet, and he found the folded letter that his old teacher wrote his Mother that day. He opened it … The message written on the letter was “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and then wrote in his diary:

“Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the Century.”

A positive word of encouragement can help change anyone’s destiny. (Did Thomas Edison’s Mother Lie About a Letter Expelling Him from School? byAlex Kasprak)

The Talmud (Yoma 86A) quotes Rabbi Levi who said, “Great is repentance, as it reaches the Heavenly throne, as it is stated: ‘Return, Israel, to the Lord your G-D’”(Hosea 14:2). This implies that repentance literally reaches Hashem.

In last week’s Parsha, Moshe gathered the entire Jewish People before Hashem, to bring them into a covenant with Hashem. The Torah (Devarim 29:12) says that if the Jews will remain faithful to Hashem, they will be Hashem’s “people” and Hashem will be “their G-D”. If the Jews falter and serve other gods, the punishment will be severe. However, when the Jews will repent and return to Hashem, Hashem will welcome them with open arms and shower them with much good.

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah (Devarim 31:1-2) begins, “Moshe went and spoke these things to all Israel. He said to them…“ The Kli Yakar asks two questions. The pasuk says that Moshe went. Where did he go? Then the pasuk says that “he spoke”. However, the pasuk does not tell us what he said. What did he say?  The Kli Yakar says that the word “vayedaber”, that he “spoke” is a tougher way of talking. On his last day of life, Moshe gave the Jews mussar. Moshe spoke “words of teshuva”, telling the Jews to repent and come closer to Hashem. “Moshe went”, says the Kli Yakar, to every single tent, to every Jewish home, to tell and exhort them to do teshuva. In the previous parsha, Moshe had already told the Jewish People as a whole, about the importance of teshuva. Yet, Moshe felt it was so important, that he repeated the message to each individual family. [I am not aware of any sin that the Jews had done. Therefore, I assume that the discussion about teshuva refers to a future point in time]

The Ibn Ezra has a different explanation of what the Torah means by the words, “Moshe went”. The Ibn Ezra says that Moshe went to every shevet, tribe, to inform them that he was about to die and that they should not be afraid of what the future portended.

The last day of Moshe’s life was a very busy one. The consummate leader, he didn’t spend the time to take care of his own needs. He wrote 13 sifrei Torah (Midrash Rabba). One was placed in the Aron, in the Mishkan. The other 12 were given to each of the 12 shevatim, ensuring that each tribe would have its own sefer Torah as a guide to follow the proper path in life.

Look at the love and sensitivity that Moshe showed to his people. He knew that he would soon die, and he was busy writing the sifrei Torah. Yet, according to the Ibn Ezra, he stopped to think about others and their feelings. How will the Jewish People feel after I die? They may be afraid about what will happen after their leader dies. Let me console them. Moshe took the time to go to each shevet to comfort them.

According to the Kli Yakar, Moshe went even further. He didn’t just go to each shevet to speak with them. He actually took the time to speak to every individual family. Imagine how valued they felt, getting such personal attention by the greatest leader in history, and only hours before his demise.

We learn from Moshe Rabbeinu’s actions the importance of showing sensitivity to others.

The Torah further shows us the importance of showing concern for others. Yehoshua was going to take-over the reins of leadership from Moshe. Numerous times, Yehoshua was encouraged to be “strong and courageous”. Moshe called Yehoshua in front of all Israel and said,”Be strong & courageous” (Devarim 31:7). And [Hashem] charged Yehoshua son of Nun: “Be strong and resolute (Devarim 31:23). Twice more in the next few psukim, Hashem again tells Yehoshua, “Be strong and resolute”.  After Moshe died, Hashem told Yehoshua, “Be strong and resolute” (Yehoshua 1:6).  

The Chidushei HaRim. (as quoted in Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin) questions why it was necessary to encourage Yehoshua so many times with the words “Be strong and resolute”. Yehoshua had already proven that he was a capable leader when he led the battle against Amalek.  The Torah had also testified that Yehoshua was “filled with wisdom”. The Chidushei HaRim says that this teaches us an important lesson. No matter how capable a person may be, he can always benefit from words of reassurance and encouragement. Even one as great as Yehoshua could benefit from it.

If even someone as great as Yehoshua could benefit from words of encouragement, how much more so we can also benefit from it. Let’s take this lesson to heart and give words of encouragement to our friends, our acquaintances, our students, our families, and especially to our spouses. Our words will not cost us anything. The benefits will be endless, for others as well as for ourselves.



Parshas Nitzavim – Step Into Hashem’s Time Machine!

Parshas Nitzavim

Step Into Hashem’s Time Machine!


“For this commandment that I command you today is not hidden from you and is not distant.” (Devarim 30:11)

A woman grew up in California, always wondering if she had been adopted. She did not look like the rest of her family. She had a dark complexion while her parents and siblings had pale complexions. When she was 49 years old, her parents finally told her that she had been adopted. They did not know anything about her natural parents. All they knew was that she had been born in Israel. With the help of an investigative reporter, she discovered that she had been stolen from her parents at birth. Her parents, who had been newly arrived immigrants, had been told that their baby had died. Through DNA testing, this woman was able to trace her mother. A meeting between the two women was arranged. The two women had not seen the other for almost 50 years. They grew up in different cultures, with different lifestyles, and spoke different languages. Yet, when they met, they fell into each-other’s arms. They cried, hugged, kissed, and cried some more. They felt the close bond of a parent and child. (Rabbi Frand on the Parsha 2).

Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l discusses the greatness of every human. Hashem’s first act of Creation, creating the heavens and the earth, was unequaled in history. Hashem had created something from nothing! Then, Hashem created the rest of the magnificent world, including trillions of star worlds. Hashem did not make any special announcements before any of those creations. Yet, before creating man, Hashem made an announcement, “We are going to make man.” Mankind is the most important creation. Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l says that Man is not only greater than any object in creation. Man is more important than the entire creation, put together! Because of that, every action of man, even a small one, is very significant. If the king of a huge empire would sign a decree, it would affect millions of his subjects. His small act of signing a paper could determine life or death for millions, because he, as the one signing that paper, was such a great and powerful person. (Toras Avigdor on Parshas Ki Seitzei)

Because man is so great, every act of his is so significant. Any deviation from what Hashem wants, any sin, is magnified greatly and has an impact on the entire world! We must be so careful to try to avoid even the “smallest” sin.

If we could appreciate our greatness and the far-reaching significance of each sin, we could easily fall into a state of depression. We sinned! How can we extricate ourselves? How can we regain Hashem’s great love for us?

In fact, Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l  says (Kochvei Ohr, perek 3) that historically, our prophets went to great pains to exhort us to do teshuva. They worked hard to try to convince the Jewish People who did not believe that their teshuva would be accepted. Why not? Because they understood the enormity of sin and felt that teshuva was not possible. They understood what it meant to lift a hand against Hashem.

Truthfully, we should be “stuck”, without any hope. We did something terrible. It seems as if we can’t undo it. We can’t go back into time, into a time-machine, and act differently. But we can!  Hashem gave us a time machine! As in computers, Hashem gave us a “system restore feature” which resets our system to the state it was in, on a previous date. Hashem, in His great kindness, gave us the gift of teshuva. By admitting our sin, feeling regret, and accepting upon ourselves not to repeat the sin, we can achieve forgiveness for our actions. Besides that, we can achieve even more than forgiveness!  Hashem can push the reset button and make it as if our sin never even happened! Even more, if the teshuva for our sin is totally sincere and brings us closer to Hashem, then our forgiven sin can potentially be considered a mitzvah.

We should never feel that we have sunk too low to do teshuva. The Torah (Devarim 30:11-12) says, “This is not in the heavens”.  The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin zt”l (in sefer Emek Davar) quotes the Ramban and Sforno that this refers to the mitzvah of doing teshuva resulting from his great love for Hashem. Doing teshuva out of love for Hashem is a higher level of teshuva, but it is doable. No matter how distant we feel, no matter how much we feel that we have drifted, the rift is not irreparable.  If we make a sincere effort to repent properly, we can always return to Hashem, just as a wayward son who is remorseful can always return to his father. His father is always close and will accept him with open arms. One may feel that he is unworthy of Hashem’s closeness because of his sins. He may fear that Hashem has abandoned him. That may lead him to sin further.  However, Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz zt”l says, focusing on our special relationship with Hashem and Hashem’s constant and continuing kindness to us will help us realize and feel that teshuva is possible.

Man is greater than the universe! Every sin that he does, impacts the entire world!

Hashem, in His infinite kindness, gave us the opportunity to correct our wrongs.

If one does teshuva properly, Hashem will consider it as if his sin was never done.

As we approach Rosh Hashana, let’s try to improve. Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l says that we should start by making improvements in matters that are easy for us.

We can start by improving one action, at a time.

That will put us into the category of people who are in the midst of doing teshuva.




Parshas Ki Savo: Yes, You Can!

Parshas Ki Savo

Yes, You Can!


“This day Hashem, your G-d, commands you to perform these laws … observe and perform them with all your heart and all your soul.” (Devarim 26:16)

It Couldn’t Be Done


Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

      But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

      On his face. If he worried, he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!


Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

      At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

      Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.


There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

      There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

      The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

      Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it. (


A few days before Moshe died, he told the Jewish People to follow Hashem’s laws and perform the mitzvos. Moshe said, “Today, Hashem commands you to perform these laws.” (Devarim 26:16) Many commentaries including Rashi, the Ohr HaChaim and Rabbeinu Bachya ask the obvious question. These laws were given to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai 40 years earlier! Why, then, is Moshe saying that these laws were given “today”? Rashi explains that Moshe was saying that the commandments should be considered new ones.  They should be beloved as if the Jewish People had only heard them this very day. The Jewish People should not serve Hashem by rote, out of habit. We should serve Hashem with love.

Rabbeinu Bachya says that as time passes, we tend to forget miracles. The Ramban and Rambam say that Hashem’s revelation when giving the Torah at Mt. Sinai was fundamental and foundational to developing our belief in Hashem. The Jews experienced thunder, lightning, and the sound of the shofar getting louder and louder. Hashem opened the heavens and the earth to show that there was no other Creator. Hashem spoke to the Jewish People. The Torah is not requiring us to do the impossible. Our souls experienced the revelations. We CAN feel the event of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai as if we received it right at this moment.  Even though it occurred thousands of years ago, we CAN imagine the emotion of the moment. If we experience this intense emotion and feel that Hashem has just spoken to us, the performance of any and every mitzvah will become easy to do. The mitzvos will take on a new meaning. How can we not do the mitzvos with all our energy and love? Nothing can stand in our way of fulfilling the mitzvos.  This is how we should feel at this very moment. We should feel the intense emotions, the excitement, and the closeness to Hashem. And we CAN do this! That is what the Torah is teaching us.   We can experience the revelation at Mount Sinai every time we do a mitzvah and every time that we learn Torah! We can feel this even when the Jewish people are in exile, and we do not witness open miracles. To reach this level of feeling, we must do what is called Mussar b’hispalus. We must consciously act to draw this intellectual feeling into the fiber of our emotions. We can do so by actively verbalizing this message to ourselves, countless times. We must keep telling ourselves about the wonders of Hashem’s revelation on Mount Sinai and the special closeness we felt to Hashem at that time. In so doing, we are enabling our hearts to “hear” to what our brain already knows.

Every day we can feel as if the Torah has just been given.

We CAN feel the intense emotions and strong love of Hashem.

Mitzvos and Torah learning will take on a new meaning and will be easy to do.


Based on a dvar Torah by Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l








Parshas Ki Teitzei: Listen to This Secret, and Smile!

Parshas Ki Teitzei

Listen to This Secret, and Smile!


“You shall not see the donkey of your brother, or his ox falling on the road and hide yourself from them; you shall surely stand them up, with him.” (Devorim 22:4)

I shared this story from Rabbi Dovid Ashear in a previous dvar Torah, but it is worth repeating for this particular dvar Torah.

A woman walked into a bakery in Israel, one erev Shabbos. As she was thinking about what to buy, the salesman told her that there was a special sale, and she could get two cakes for the price of one. She liked the idea but said that she only needed one cake. He suggested that she give the second cake to someone else. She said that she could give one to her sister, but she did not have the time to bring it to her. When the salesman heard where her sister lived, he said that he lived only a few blocks away and could deliver it for her. He wrote the name and the address. She wrote a note saying, “From your sister.  Have a great Shabbos!” After Shabbos, she was surprised that her sister did not call her to thank her for the cake. She called her sister and was surprised to hear that the cake had not been delivered. The next morning, she called the bakery to find out what had happened. The salesman said that he had delivered the cake to the address she had given him, to her sister on the first floor. She said, “But my sister lives on the third floor!” Apparently, there were two people at that address with the same last name and the cake was delivered to the “wrong” person. This woman got very curious and looked in the phone book for the phone number of the person who did get the cake. She called and asked the woman who answered the phone if she had a received a cake that erev Shabbos. There was a long pause, and the sound of crying could be heard. When the woman composed herself, she said that what they got was more than just a cake. Apparently, her husband had not spoken to his sister for over 10 years because of a petty argument. When he saw the cake from “his” sister, he thought she wanted to make peace and renew the relationship. He called his sister to thank her. That phone call was the catalyst in bringing her husband and his sister back to a peaceful and loving relationship.


Reuven does not like Levi because Reuven feels that Levi caused him an injustice. Shalom does not like Shimon because Shimon did not speak-up to defend him. Yehudah does not like Binyamin because Binyamin did not help him when his help was needed. Zev does not like Beryl because Beryl once made fun of him. Leah is upset at Sara for not inviting her to her wedding. Nosson does not like his sister, Rochel, because of a comment that she had said about him to someone else in the family.


How can we unify Klal Yisroel? How can we bring peace amongst ourselves? How can we restore good feelings and friendship with one another? If we can think of a solution, we will feel a heavy burden lifted from our shoulders and we will feel much happier. Klal Yisroel will then become reunited as one.


Rabbeinu Bachya has a solution. The pasuk states, “You shall not see the donkey of your brother, or his ox falling on the road and hide yourself from them; you shall surely stand them up, with him.” (Devorim 22:4) You are obligated to help your brother in need. If his animal had fallen due to its heavy load, you are obligated to help him remove the load and help the animal stand. (There are many specific details about this mitzvah.)


Rabbeinu Bachya points out that the Torah had stated this mitzvah, previously, but with a major difference. The pasuk in Parshas Mishpatim (23:5) states, “If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its burden, would you refrain from helping him? – You shall help him repeatedly.” The first time that the Torah obligates us to help, the Torah refers to the person in need as, “your enemy”. The second time that the Torah obligates us to help, the Torah calls the person in need, “your brother”. Rabbeinu Bachya learns a very important lesson from the difference in wording of these two psukim. If you assist your enemy with his falling donkey, he will eventually appreciate you and become “your brother.” He will forget the “hatred” between you and only remember the bond of love that unites brothers.


Rabbeinu Bachya gives us the secret formula to end hatred. Be nice to the person that you dislike. Do a favor to the one that you may hate. That will melt the feelings of hate in both of your hearts and will restore feelings of love. You will be happier and so will he. It is hard to be the one to take the first step, but it will be worth it! So many people have had their lives ruined due to arguments between friends or family members. Some of the arguments were even over minor things, but the bad feelings festered and grew.


Hashem loves us all, as a father loves his children. Think of how hurt a father feels when two of his children have a fight and are no longer speaking to each other.


Think of how happy it will make Hashem if you put in the effort to end discord between Hashem’s children. What a tremendous z’chus it will be for you and your entire family.

As Rosh Hashana approaches. what a powerful source of blessing this will be for you.

Go for it! Make yourself happy and bring blessings into your life!


[Go to and look in the Archives for Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim. The dvar Torah titled, “Do Not Hit the Mailman”, gives another suggestion of how to help you remove the ill feelings from your heart.]




Parshas Re’eh: How Big are Your Ears!

Parshas Re’eh

How Big are Your Ears!


“You shall open-up your hand to him…and provide whatever is lacking to him.” (Devarim 15:8)

There is a short story about a poor wagon driver who was broken-hearted after his young son had tragically died of pneumonia. Because of his extreme poverty, he had no choice but to go back to work immediately after the funeral. He was hired to drive a group of wealthy businessmen to another city. In the middle of the trip, the wagon driver started mumbling about his son. “He was such a good boy… it was only a cough….” The passengers were annoyed by the sounds of the wagon driver’s moans and groans. They shouted at him to stop bothering them. The wagon driver became silent. A few hours later, he started moaning and groaning again. As before, the passengers screamed at him to stop bothering them. This happened a few times, until they reached an inn. The passengers went inside to get something to eat and drink. The wagon driver remained outside to feed his horse. As he was feeding his horse, he repeated the story about his son’s death. The horse nodded its head from time to time. It seemed to the wagon driver that the horse was listening to him. He finally had found a sympathetic ear to listen to his sad story. (Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith)

A number-of-years ago, a man walking the streets of New York City was stopped by a man holding a gun. At gunpoint, the stranger told the sad story of what he was going through. With great emotion, he poured-out his many problems. After an hour, he was finished speaking and put away his gun. He apologized to his victim for frightening him. He explained that he had been trying for weeks to find a sympathetic ear to listen to his problems. He was unable to find anyone, so he had to try desperate means. (Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, as heard from Rabbi Chayim Zaitchik)

When the Torah discusses the topics of giving tzedakah and doing chesed it says, “You shall open up your hand…and provide whatever is lacking to him.” (Devarim 15:8) The words, “to him” seem to be extra. In actuality, those words teach us the importance of dealing with every needy person as a unique individual. There is no concept of “one size fits all” when it comes to giving tzedakah or doing acts of chesed. The Ba’al Haturim, quoting the Sifri, says that if the poor man is used to eating bread, give him bread. If he is used to eating delicacies, give him delicacies. Rashi says that you should even give him a horse to ride on and a servant to run in front of him, if that is what he was used to.

Even if you are unable to give the poor man the money that he needs, you can still fulfill the mitzvah of doing chesed to him. Rav Pam zt”l says that doing an act of chesed does not necessarily require much money, time, or effort. It can be as simple a chesed as listening to someone unburden his problems. Every human being needs someone to listen to him. When you do so, that shows that you care.

A tzedakah collector once remarked that the best donation that he received each year came from a man who lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. After a few questions, the listener realized that the collector was speaking about the Gadol Hador, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Although Rav Moshe’s donation was not a substantial one, he made the tzedakah collector feel valued. He took the tzedakah collector’s hands in his own, gave him brachos and listened to him unburden himself of his problems. The Talmud (Bava Basra 9B) says whoever consoles a poor person with words of comfort and encouragement receives eleven blessings, almost double the blessings received for giving him money.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l  (in Chovas HaShmirah, as quoted by Rabbi Pliskin) says that we have a moral obligation to boost the spirits of someone who is dejected, by speaking with him at length. A student once saw Rabbi Yisroel Salanter zt”l standing on a street corner, talking and joking with a stranger. The student was surprised since Rabbi Salanter zt”l usually had a very serious demeaner. He questioned his rebbe’s actions. Rabbi Salanter zt”l explained that the stranger had problems that were weighing very heavily on him, and he wanted to alleviate his depression (Ohr Yisroel, as quoted by Rabbi Pliskin).

We all have challenges in life. We all need someone to listen to us, at times.

We all need a sympathetic ear to hear us as we unburden ourselves.

Even if we have no solutions to others’ problems,

simply listening to them can help make a difference in their lives.



Parshas Eikev: Honesty is the Best Policy!

Parshas Eikev

Honesty is the Best Policy!


“I bought a donkey. I did not buy a precious gem!” (Midrash Rabbah Eikev 3:3)

There was once a queen in Rome who lost a precious ring, a bracelet, and a necklace. She was very sad because these items were very precious to her. She sent a messenger who went through the streets of Rome proclaiming, “The queen has lost some precious jewels. A generous reward awaits the person who returns them within 30 days! Whoever keeps the jewels beyond 30 days will be punished by death!” The great Rabbi Shmuel bar Susrati happened to find the queen’s jewels. He held the jewels for 30 days and then went to return them to the queen. The queen was amazed. She was very happy to have her jewels returned. But she was angry that they were not returned sooner. She questioned Rabbi Shmuel who told her that he had heard the proclamation yet did not return the jewels sooner. The queen was puzzled until Rabbi Shmuel explained his actions. “I did not want you to think that I returned your jewels to earn the reward or because I am afraid of you. I returned them because in the Torah, my G-D commanded us to return a lost article to its owner.”  The queen realized that Rabbi Shmuel was both honest and righteous.  She said, ”Blessed is the G-D of Israel”. (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia, Chapter 2, as quoted in Our Sages Showed the Way by Yocheved Segal)

In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, shekalim (actually, half-shekalim coins) were collected from most of the Jewish People. The money was used to pay for communal sacrifices that were brought in the Beis HaMikdash. The shekalim were stored in the Temple chamber. Three times during the year the shekalim were withdrawn and placed into three large chests. The one who withdrew the shekalim did not enter the treasury chamber wearing a hemmed cloak, a shoe, or a sandal, or wearing tefillin or an amulet. He did not enter wearing anything wherein he could hide shekalim. The Mishna explains (Shekalim 3:2) the importance of not wearing such items.  If this man would become poor, people might say that he became poor because he sinned by stealing some of the shekalim.  Conversely, if he would become rich, people might say that he became rich from stealing some of the shekalim. The Mishna continues saying that it is one’s obligation to be free of blame before man and before Hashem. As the pasuk says (Bamidbar 32:22), “And you shall be guiltless before Hashem and before the Jewish People”.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 5:1:20) as well as the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 38A) cite a few instances to illustrate this principle. The family of Avtinas were experts in preparing the ketores, the incense that was burned in the Bais HaMikdash. They were the only ones who knew the secret of how to properly prepare it so that its smoke went straight up, like a stick. No woman from this family ever went out wearing perfume. Not only that, but when anyone in this family married a woman from a different family, they stipulated with her that she could not put on perfume. They did this in order that others not suspect them of wrongdoing. They did not want anyone to think that they used the sacred incense to make perfume for their women. This was to confirm what the pasuk said “And you shall be guiltless before Hashem and before the Jewish People”.

It is not sufficient that a person act without sin in the eyes of Hashem. He must also appear upright in the eyes of other people so that they will not suspect him of wrongdoing.

The craftsmen of the House of Garmu made the lechem hapanim, the 12 loaves of bread that were put on the Shulchan, in the Beis HaMikdash. No other family knew the secret of how to make it. No one in this family ever ate bread made from fine flour. They ate only bread made of coarse flour mixed with bran, to fulfill that which is stated, “And you shall be guiltless before Hashem and before the Jewish People”. They did not want people to suspect them of using the recipe of the holy bread to use for their personal use. Not only must one’s behavior be beyond reproach, one should also make certain to be above suspicion.

Wow! The families of Avtinas and Garmu restricted themselves from everyday pleasures! They did so solely to avoid the false impression by cynics, that they were misusing holy items.

The Midrash (Devarim: Eikev 3:3) cites a story. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach once purchased a donkey from an Arab. When Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach’s students looked at the donkey, they discovered a precious gem hanging around its neck. They were excited, for now their teacher would be able to teach Torah without the constant financial worries that had been plaguing him. When they told Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach about their discovery, he did not share in their excitement.  He said, “I bought a donkey. I did not buy a precious gem!” He promptly went and returned the precious gem to the Arab who had sold him the donkey. Whereupon, the Arab blessed him, and cried out, “Blessed is the G-d of Shimon ben Shetach!”

These stories highlight the importance of being honest and of acting above suspicion. What a beautiful lesson for us. How careful we must be to avoid the impression of dishonesty, even when doing nothing wrong.

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l asked a question on the above Midrash. Why did the Arab praise the “G-D” of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach? Why didn’t he just praise Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach alone, for being so honest? After all, can’t a person be honest even if he does not believe in Hashem? Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l learns an important lesson from this Midrash. One’s natural tendency is to rationalize. A person can convince himself that the action he wants to do is totally acceptable and not dishonest. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach could have rationalized a reason to keep the gem.

Only when one is guided by Hashem and the Torah, will he see the truth, not rationalize, and do what is honest and proper. Then he will be “guiltless before Hashem and before the Jewish People”.

Parshas V’eschanan – Shabbos Nachamu: Don’t Touch The Fire On The Stove!

Parshas V’eschanan – Shabbos Nachamu

Don’t Touch The Fire On The Stove!


“Comfort, comfort, My people, says your G-D” (Isaiah 40:1)

When Tzivia & Rafi grew older, they understood that the light hit did not come from anger but from love.

Both of our Batei Mikdash, Holy Temples, were destroyed on the 9th of Av. The destructions were devastatingly depressing for the Jewish People. They felt forsaken by Hashem. This Shabbos, we read the haftorah of nachamu, consolation, from the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1). It is the first of seven consecutive weeks of haftorahs of consolation. “Comfort, comfort, My people, says your G-D”. Hashem, Himself, will comfort us and bring the ultimate redemption.

Hashem’s love for us is greater than the love of a parent for his child. Although we deserved to be punished, it pained Hashem greatly to do so. However, even when we were punished, Hashem showed His love for us. The Midrash Eichah (4:14) quotes a pasuk from Tehillim, Psalms (79:1) which discusses the destruction of the Temple. It is written: “A psalm of Asaf: Hashem, peoples have invaded Your inheritance”. Why does the pasuk say that it was a psalm, a song? Since it depicts a sad event, shouldn’t it have said the weeping of Asaf? The Midrash continues that this is analogous to a king who prepared a wedding house for his son. He made the house very beautiful. Unfortunately, the king’s son went astray. Immediately, the king went to the wedding house and ripped the curtains and broke the poles. The son’s mentor was overjoyed at what the king had done. He took a reed flute and began playing. He was asked, ‘The king overturned his son’s wedding house, and you are sitting and playing?!” He replied that he was happy that the king had overturned his son’s wedding canopy and did not vent his anger on his son. Similarly, they said to Asaf, “Hashem, blessed be He, destroyed the Sanctuary and the Temple, and you are sitting and playing?” Asaf replied that he was playing because he was happy that Hashem vented His wrath on the wood and stones and did not vent His wrath on the Jewish People.

Three times a year, on Succos, Pesach, and Shavuos, the Jews would make a pilgrimage to the Beis Hamikdash. The Talmud (Yoma 54A) quotes Rav Ketina who says that the kohanim would open the curtains to the Holy of Holies, in the Beis HaMikdash. They would show the people the keruvim, the two golden, childlike figures that were on the cover of the holy Aron. Rashi explains that the Jews saw that the keruvim were clinging to one another. This symbolized the love that Hashem had for the Jewish People. The Talmud (Bava Basra 99A) says that when the Jewish People had sinned and were distant from Hashem, the keruvim would face away from each other.

The Talmud (Yoma 54B) quotes Resh Lakish who says that when the Babylonians entered the First Temple, they saw that the keruvim were clinging to each other.

 Precisely at the time of the physical destruction, when Hashem distanced Himself from His people, He parted with an embrace. Hashem was sending us a message- I still love you and will always love you! Yes, I must destroy the Beis HaMikdash but I have not rejected you! My holy Presence is also going into exile, just as you are. But I shall return! And I will also bring you back!

We are Hashem’s special nation. Even when Hashem must punish us for our misdeeds,

He loves us so much! This should be a source of comfort for us.


Parshas Devarim – Special Tisha B’Av Issue: One Person Can Change the World! You Can Be That One Person!

Parshas Devarim – Special Tisha B’Av Issue

One Person Can Change the World! You Can Be That One Person!


“Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants decided matters exactly according to Torah law” (Bava Metzia 30B)

During the Six Day War, the basement in the Mirrer Yeshiva served as a bomb-shelter for the neighborhood. Bombs would often land nearby. Once, there was a direct hit. It caused an explosion. Many of those in the basement thought that they would imminently die. Many cried out, “Shema Yisroel….”. There was a woman in the basement whose husband had abandoned her twenty years earlier, without giving her a “get”, a Jewish divorce. As a result, she was forbidden to remarry. Her life, during that time, had been very difficult. Now, her voice was louder than the others. She called out to Hashem that although she had suffered terribly because of her husband, she, now, forgave him! Then, she implored Hashem to, accordingly, forgive the Jewish People. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the Mirrer Rosh HaYeshivah was also in the bomb shelter. He had heard the woman’s cries. He later said that he was certain that her prayer had saved all of them! She had overlooked the terrible wrong that had been done to her. That saved all of them.  (Artscroll Tishah B’Av, compiled by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer & Rabbi Shimon Finkelman)

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin zt”l in his sefer, Nefesh Hachaim (1:4), says that no Jew should ever say, “What am I and what power do my deeds have to accomplish anything in this world?”  Rather, every deed, word, and even thought, impacts the “Upper Worlds”.

Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal zt”l learns from the Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis 60:2) that the world receives kindness in the merit of our forefather Avraham. Our forefather, Avraham, opened a flow of Divine kindness that continues thousands of years later, in our time!  The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (Sha’ar Hazechirah, Chapter 2) says that the way one conducts himself in this world, awakens a corresponding conduct from Hashem. Thus, Avraham’s kindness awakened a flow of kindness to this world. If one overlooks the hurt that others cause him, he awakens a similar compassion Above. Hashem will then overlook sins that are done against Him!  The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30B) says, “Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants decided matters exactly according to Torah law”. What was wrong with what they had done? Technically they acted properly in desiring justice. The problem was that they were unforgiving and did not look to compromise. They followed the exactness of the law. Hashem treated them in a similar way. Hashem also judged them according to the exactness of the law, without compromise and without overlooking their sins. This illustrates why it is so important for us to forgive wrongs done to us. According to the Talmud (Yoma 23A) if we overlook wrongs that are done to us then Hashem will treat us in kind and will “overlook” and forgive our personal sins. It will also cause a flow of extra kindness from Hashem to all Jews, potentially causing Hashem to overlook their sins as well. Even if we were clearly and hurtfully wronged, it is very meritorious and exceedingly beneficial to us not react to those wrongs. (Inspiration & Insight translated by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman)  

There was a woman who needed a specific salvation in her personal life. She went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, the late Gadol Hador, for a blessing. He told her to find someone who was publicly embarrassed and did not respond in kind. Such a person would have the power to give her the blessing that she needed. It took her 4 years to find such a person. When she saw a woman being publicly humiliated at a wedding, she quickly begged her not to respond. The woman listened to her. She then explained the whole story and asked for a blessing for her specific need. Thereupon, she received the blessing, which indeed came true. (As told over by Rabbi Fischel Schachter)

Tisha B’Av is a very sad day for us. It was decreed that the Jews remain in the desert for 40 years before entering the Land of Israel. Men aged 20-60 years old, perished during those years. Both the First and Second Temples were destroyed on Tisha B’Av. Many other tragic events throughout history, also occurred on Tisha B’Av.

On the other hand, Tisha B’Av is a day of hope and new beginning, as the Moshiach was/will be born on Tisha B’Av.

Moshiach will herald a new era of peace, tranquility, good health, and an end to suffering. It is clearly a day for us to reflect on our deeds and try to improve. It is especially a time to work on our relationships. It is a time to do acts of kindness, to end strife and discord, and to forgive. Our actions can be the ones that bring the Moshiach!


Parshas Nitzavim: Treasure This!

Parshas Nitzavim

Treasure This!


“Hashem … will circumcise your heart…to love Hashem…with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Devarim 30:6)

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l questions the connection between the beginning of the pasuk and its last few words. What is the connection of the words, “that you may live” to “Hashem … will circumcise your heart…to love Hashem…with all your soul”?

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l  (Shem Olam perek 20) explains that we should rejoice at being given the gift of life through which we can attain the eternal bliss of our soul being attached to Hashem. When we think about this, it will bring us a feeling of intense love towards Hashem for giving us this opportunity.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l explains by way of beautiful parable. Beryl was exceedingly poor. He dressed in rags and was always hungry and thirsty. One day, as he was walking, he heard screams. He ran to the source of the screams, getting there just in time to save a young man. It turned out that the man he saved was the prince. The king was so appreciative. To show his thanks, the king opened his treasury for one day, allowing Beryl to take anything that he desired. Beryl ignored his increasing exhaustion, extreme hunger, and thirst and spent the entire day loading treasures into sacks. Beryl’s efforts made him one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom. With his newfound wealth, Beryl got involved in different business ventures. They were highly successful, making Beryl the wealthiest man in the kingdom.

Every year, Beryl made a lavish feast on the anniversary of the day that he entered the king’s treasure room and became a wealthy man. He invited all the nobility and important people of the kingdom to his feast. He did this for many years. At that point, many of the people that he had invited did not know the story behind his wealth. One year, he asked the assembled guests if they knew what day was his happiest, and most satisfying. They all responded that it was the current day, the day of the magnificent feast. During the feast, Beryl sat in the middle, getting all the attention. All the important people were there, the room was richly decorated, the tables were laden with delicacies, and servants were going back and forth to satisfy everyone’s needs. Beryl said that they were mistaken. It was a day many years before, that he still remembered very clearly. He was exceedingly poor and less important than a common servant. Yet, every moment of that day was filled with endless happiness. He was very hungry, very thirsty, and very tired. Yet, he ignored all those feelings because he knew that every moment, he was becoming wealthier and wealthier. The more wealth he gathered, the happier he became. The entire day passed without him worrying about his growing hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.

We are like the poor man, Beryl. Hashem has allowed us into His “treasury, to collect the treasures of Torah learning and other mitzvos. We only have a limited time, our lifetime, to collect all the treasures. As it says in Mishlei (Proverbs 3:15), “She is more precious than rubies; All of your goods cannot equal her.” One word of Torah learning is more valuable than all the wealth of the world, combined. We should rejoice each moment we have to acquire more of the “treasure” of the Torah and mitzvos. We should feel such happiness that life’s difficulties and challenges don’t bother us. This should also awaken within us strong feelings of love towards Hashem.

If we feel distant from this feeling of happiness and only feel love towards Hashem when He gives us goodness in this world, it is because we have a heart blockage that prevents us from appreciating the value of Torah and mitzvos. That blockage also affects the extent of love we feel towards Hashem. However, as the pasuk says, when Hashem removes the blockage, we will appreciate the value of Torah and mitzvos. Then we will love Hashem even more, for every moment of life that He gave us.  We will appreciate the fact that Hashem enabled us to acquire the enormous wealth of Torah and mitzvos thereby giving us the opportunity to attain eternal bliss with Hashem.

Let us try to appreciate the contents of the treasure room that Hashem has opened for us. Gathering as much Torah learning and mitzvos that we can, during our lifetime, will connect our souls to Hashem, for eternity.

This appreciation will also help us navigate through the trials and tribulations of life.