Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
Harav Matisyahu Salomon, the Lakewood Mashgiach, once related the following personal story:
“When I was a young man I was a student in the Gateshead Yeshiva. The yeshiva had a 125 students – not large quantitatively, but qualitatively tremendous. The building was fairly small and the tables were so narrow that the volumes of Gemara overlapped each other. If a student wanted to turn the page he had to ask everyone around him to lift their Gemaras first. Yet despite it all we studied with tremendous diligence.
“One day a Dayan from London came to visit the yeshiva. Adressing the student body he read to us a page from an American journal.
“The article was written by an obviously irreligious Jew, albeit who possessed an appreciation for Jewish history. The author explained that, along with a group of journalists, he was invited on a European tour. When they arrived in England one of the places they visited was a village in Northeast England called Wallsend.
“Wallsend is an ancient village that dates back almost two millennia. When the Romans invaded and conquered England they constructed a wall to serve as a barrier to keep the mighty Scottish Picks out of England. They named it Hadrian’s Wall after the Roman Emperor. The village where the wall ended was aptly called Wallsend. Today there is nothing left of the wall except for a few moss-covered stones in the village of Wallsend. It is nothing more than a tourist attraction.
“The day the journalist arrived at Wallsend he recalled that he had yahrtzeit for his mother and he wanted to recite kaddish in her memory. When he asked the tour guide if there were any Jewish Services in the area, the guide replied that there was a school in the village of Gateshead ten miles away.
“The journalist arrived at the yeshiva in the middle of the afternoon. He had never been in a yeshiva before and the sight that greeted him was extraordinary. There were tens of young men huddled together on small benches studying, debating, and arguing with passion and vibrancy. The journalist did not comprehend anything they were saying, but he stood and watched spellbound. But then he overheard something which caught his attention. One student called out to his friend, ‘But Rabi Akiva says…!’ Those words reverberated in his ears.
“Even after they destroyed the Bais Hamikdash, the Romans understood that their job was incomplete. In order to destroy the Jewish People, they had to stop the public study and teaching of Torah. Hadrian sentenced Rabi Akiva’s to death because he taught Torah publicly. Hadrian ordered him killed in a most barbaric and heinous fashion to serve as an example of the severe consequences for teaching Torah. Yet today, centuries later, Hadrian and the Roman Empire are long gone, relegated to the history books and symbolized by a few moss-covered stones. Rabi Akiva, on the other hand, is alive and well. His teachings and legacy are still being promulgated and studied today!
Rabbi Salomon concluded that the story gave him so much encouragement because it serves as a powerful representation of G-d’s Promise, “But despite all this, when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them – for I am Hashem, their G-d.” Rashi explains that a Jew must never think that the atrocities of exile prove that G-d no longer loves us. His love for us is boundless, and even in exile the covenant remains in full force.
All of the empires and countries that have sought to vanquish and obliterate us are gone. Yet we remain. That is the greatest sign of His love for us.
The verses of Shema, recited thrice daily, form the cornerstone of our faith, responsibility, and devotion to G-d. A Jew is obligated to state with conviction, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your “Me’od”
The Gemara offers two explanations of the word me’od. The first explanation is “with all of your resources”; one must prioritize G-d over his money and physical resources. The second is that one must love G-d despite whatever “middah” (Character Trait/Divine Attribute) G-d utilizes towards him. At times G-d may act toward a person with the attribute of justice, at other times with compassion. But no matter which attribute it is one must realize that G-d does all for the good and He must love G-d for that.
A Jew must love G-d on Tisha B’av in the same way as on Simchas Torah. Even when events are inexplicable and painful, one must remind himself that G-d loves him and is always with him.
One night Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichiv was staying at an inn. At midnight he sat down on the floor to recite Tikkun Chatzos as he did every night.
The innkeeper awakened by the sounds of weeping came to see what was wrong. Reb Levi Yitzchok explained that he was reciting special prayers to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the elongated exile that we are subject to. The innkeeper replied that those tragic events transpired centuries earlier. Why cry over spilled milk? The Rebbe gently described to his host the grandeur and opulence that was Jerusalem. He described the Kohanim doing the service in the Bais Hamikdash and bringing the offerings on the altar, while the Levites sang harmoniously. He delineated the many miracles that took place and the feeling of closeness and connection that every Jew felt with his Creator.
When the innkeeper heard the Rebbe’s description he began to cry. In fact he cried so intensely that soon Reb Levi Yitzchok had to put his arm around the innkeeper to console him. “Despite what we have lost, we are actually quite fortunate. On Tisha B’av afternoon, after spending hours sitting on the floor and reciting lamentations, recounting all the tragedies that have befallen us as a people during the exile, we arise and don our Talis and Tefillin. During Mincha we recite the added prayer ‘Nachem’ which requests that G-d console us for our losses. How does this drastic transition occur? How can we begin to accept consolation when moments before we were in a state of inconsolable grief? Furthermore, most of the Bais Hamikdash burned during the afternoon of the ninth and the morning of the tenth of Av. Why are we rising from our most intense state of mourning during the time when the flames were ravaging the Sanctuary?
The Rebbe continued, “The truth is that we do not comprehend G-d’s kindness and love for us. Our Sages explain that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed to save us. Had He allowed us to receive the retribution we justly deserved we would have been destroyed. But because He channeled His anger, as it were, towards the physical structure, we were able to survive the harrowing and traumatic ordeal. Therein lies our solace! The very fact that G-d destroyed the Bais Hamikdash demonstrates His love for us.
“That is why we are able to be consoled at the height of our grief. The very burning of the Bais Hamikdash symbolizes the reason why we are able to be consoled. For in that sense the burning Temple symbolizes G-d’s unyielding love for us.”
When Reb Levi Yitzchok concluded his narrative, the innkeeper stopped crying, and then he got up and began to dance. The Rebbe arose to join him and they sang and danced. One of the other guests at the inn was awakened by the noise and went to investigate. The sight that greeted him was astounding. He asked the innkeeper why he was dancing with the Rebbe in the middle of the night. The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais Hamikdash!”
The Shabbos following Tisha B’av is titled Shabbos Nachamu – the Shabbos of consolation. The opening words of the haftorah read, “Console! Console My People!” Despite all we have suffered and all of the difficulties and pains people suffer from, we take solace in the knowledge that G-d’s love for us is boundless and unconditional. In addition, we wear our tragedies as banners of pride knowing we are part of an eternal people who will ultimately prevail and persevere. No other nation can feel consolation in the tragedy itself, besides Klal Yisroel, for we know that we are part of a Master Plan.
We await the ultimate consolation when G-d will abolish tears and pain forever, and the whole world will recognize the undeniable truth, “On that day, G-d will be One, and His Name will be One.”
 Rabbi Salomon added that, in his opinion, “that is the only reason why there is a ridiculous place called Wallsend and why people still go to look at those stones. Because those stones are a testimony that Torah is Min Hashamayim (Divinely Ordained).”
 Vayikra 26:44
 Berachos 61b, 54b
 Heard from Rabbi Pinchos Idstein, Head Counselor of Camp Dora Golding, Tisha B’av 5770
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead and the Social Worker at Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch in Monsey. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit him online at www.stamtorah.info.
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Do you say Shema before you go to sleep? I’m sure you do.
But perhaps you, like many, feel too tired at night to say the entire tefillah of Kri’as Shema as it appears in the siddur. If you do say the entire tefillah, you will recognize a pasuk in this week’s Haftorah. And if you don’t say the whole Kri’as Shema al Hamitah, perhaps after this column, you’ll re-consider and find yourself connecting with the following very comforting pasuk.
The sand is rapidly running through the hourglass, as the centrifuges in the secret Iranian nuclear plants spin furiously. It is quite clear that the Iranians are on the brink of attaining nuclear capability, and we are well aware of the danger that would face Klal Yisroel in that event, chas v’sholom. All the sanctions, threats, and computer worm attacks do not seem to be stopping them, and it is terrifying. And when we see how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks anywhere in the world, we become even more terrified.
Miriam spoke disparagingly about Moshe Rabbeinu. Because of this, she contracted tzaras, and for seven days she was sent outside the camp of Israel.
Detached Or Unrelated
‘He Made An Asheirah Tree Into a Ladder…’
In this week’s parshah we read about the individuals who were tamei and thus could not bring the korban Pesach. They approached Moshe Rabbeinu and asked him whether there was anything they could do to bring the korban. Ultimately, Hashem told Moshe that they should bring a korban a month after Pesach, on the 14th of Iyar.
Question: As Shavuot is fast approaching – a holiday on which we dwell on the story of Ruth and the origins of the royal house of David – I was wondering if you could help me resolve something. Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah because the Hasmoneans improperly crowned themselves and ignored the rule that all Jewish kings are supposed to come from the tribe of Yehudah. Is this true?
One of the thirty-nine prohibited melachot on Shabbat is carrying an object from a private domain, reshut hayachid, to a public domain, reshut harabim, or carrying an object a distance of four amot, six to eight feet, in a reshut harabim. The Torah does permit, however, carrying within the reshut hayachid itself. The definition of a reshut hayachid and a reshut harabim is crucial, therefore, to the laws of carrying on Shabbat.
Question: The Midrash notes that the song the Jews sang after they crossed the Red Sea (“Az Yashir”) was unique; its likes had never been heard before in the world. Our Sages even refer to it as a shirah chadashah, a “new song.” What made “Az Yashir” so unique and in what sense was it a “new song”?
The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.
Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is remarkable for the extreme realism with which it portrays human character. Its heroes are not superhuman. Its non-heroes are not archetypal villains. The best have failings; the worst often have saving virtues. I know of no other religious literature quite like it.
Last week I shared a letter from a newly observant Jewish woman. She and her husband reside in a small suburban community outside of Los Angeles. Last year they came to consult with me on a personal religious issue. While they were both ba’alei teshuvah, there was one fine difference between them. He had become a ba’al teshuvah earlier than she and was therefore somewhat more settled in an observant lifestyle.
I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of when one steals from another and when confronted in beis din, the thief swears falsely with his denial that he stole. This parshah was already taught in parshas Vayikra; however, there are two halachos that the Torah adds in this parshah to this topic.
In order to carry from one’s home into the street (even when the area is enclosed by a properly constructed eruv), the eruvin ceremony must be performed. This ceremony involves the placing of food in one designated home on behalf of all Sabbath observers in the enclosed area. In order for the eruvin ceremony to be valid, however, it must be performed on behalf of all owners of streets and homes in the enclosed area.
The Rema writes (Ohr Hachaim, 494:4), “It is customary to spread branches of trees in our synagogues and homes [on Shavuos] in order to commemorate that which the sages say [Rosh Hashanah 16a] that on Shavuos the world is judged concerning [how many] fruits the trees will produce [that year].”
“And you (Moshe) speak to the Children of Israel saying, ‘But my Shabbos you are to observe; for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am Hashem Who sanctifies you” (Shemos 31:13).
Reb Dovid Blinder was a noted scholar and pedagogue in Russia in the late 1800s. He was called ‘Blinder’ (blind man) because he never lifted his head to look outside his immediate area. Among his other achievements, he had the distinction of teaching Rav Chaim Brisker in his youth.
During my formative years, one of my rabbeim once told our class that he wished to tell us something very profound, something we may have a hard time believing: “I want you all to know that every student in this room has the capability to become one of the gedolei hador.” I recall that at first that comment encouraged and inspired me. But within a short time, I began to feel very dejected. In fact, I have thought of that comment many times since then and it took me a long time to understand what bothered me about it.
“Isn’t it ironic that kids whose parents fail to set and enforce limits feel unloved and angry? Although they tend to test and protest, we have learned over and over again that limits are what kids really want. Invariably, when we talk with out-of-control teenagers or adults who were juvenile delinquents and lucky enough to survive, we ask them, ‘If you could go back to when you were a child, what would you change?’ Most of them say something like, ‘I wish my parents had reeled me in when I was a kid. Why didn’t they make me behave?’
An elderly carpenter was eagerly preparing for retirement. When he informed his employer/contractor of his plans, the employer asked him if he could do him a personal favor and build one more house before he left. After so many years of working together the carpenter felt he could not refuse, and so he begrudgingly agreed. It quickly became apparent that the carpenter’s heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and he used inferior quality materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
Phil and Mike were part of a team of construction workers building a skyscraper in the middle of the city. When it was time for their lunch break they sat down together with their feet dangling twelve stories from the ground. Phil opened his lunch box and peered in, “Peanut butter and jelly?! Again peanut butter and jelly! I have had enough! If I get peanut butter and jelly again tomorrow, so help me I’m going to jump right off this structure.” Mike then opened his lunch box and peered in, “Tuna fish?! Again Tuna fish! I can’t take it anymore. If I have tuna fish for lunch one more time I’m going to jump off with you.”
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