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Posts Tagged ‘Gan Eden’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-One: Reunion

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

The journey from Zichron Yaacov to Jaffa took almost three days. For Tevye, it was a chance to see another part of the Land of Israel, the sandy, swamp-infested coastline bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the landscape was barren, with only an occasional settlement along the way. The colonies of Hadera, Kfar Saba, and Petach Tikvah were like oases where the Jews could find a prayer minyan and stock up on supplies. Otherwise, the land lay in abandonment and ruin. Toward the end of the third day, the movement of ships out to sea told them that they were nearing the busy port city of Jaffa. In the distance, they could see the hill overlooking the harbor and the tower of the citadel which had been built during the Crusades. At the outskirts of the city, a new village consisting of rows of wooden houses and tents was being constructed on the beach. Someone said it was called Tel Aviv.

“Are they Jews?” Tevye asked.

“Free thinkers,” one of the winery workers said in a deprecatory tone.

“Free-thinking Jews,” Lishansky, the Zichron work foreman added, out of respect for all pioneers.

“You can’t be free thinking and still be a Jew,” the religious wine worker said.

“You can’t be a Jew without being free thinking,” Lishansky corrected, enjoying a little intellectual debate to pass the monotony of the journey.

“A Jew is obligated to do what God instructs him to do,” Tevye argued.

“That may be true,” Lishansky agreed. “But that in itself is the greatest freedom.”

The clang and pounding of hammering punctuated their talmudic discussion. Stone buildings and wooden frames were being erected along a dirt roadway, which was to become Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfare, Disengof Street. Within a short time, they reached the clustered dwellings of Jaffa, passed Rabbi Kook’s neighborhood, and continued on to the Rothschild wine warehouse. Tired from the journey, Tevye decided to spend the night sleeping between the rows of barrels. For a wine connoisseur like Tevye, he couldn’t have found a better hotel. The mosquitoes were merciless, but after purchasing a wholesale bottle of a vintage red brew, he managed to drift off to sleep. In the morning, Tevye and Goliath said so long to their comrades and kept heading south with the children. As they left the port city, a few settlers from Rishon hopped on the back of the wagon with bundles of food and supplies.

“Thank the Almighty,” Tevye said, “for sending us angels to help guide us on our way.”

“We are only simple Jews,” one of them answered.

“Can there be such a thing?” Tevye asked, in a philosophical mood. “Aren’t we all sons of the King?”

Moishe climbed into the front seat of the wagon and leaned sleepily against his grandfather. The mosquitoes in the warehouse had kept the boy awake all through the night. Not wanting to be left alone in the rear of the wagon with the strangers, Hannie followed after her brother and rested against Goliath’s secure, sturdy frame. Soon they had left the bustling port city behind.

Arriving in Rishon LeZion after sunset, they found Ruchel and Nachman at home in their small wooden cottage. How ecstatic the young couple was to see them! Since their wedding, it was the first time that family had come for a visit. While Ruchel hurried to set freshly baked cakes on the table, Tevye and Goliath carried the sleeping children to a corner where a spare bed was waiting.

“I have ordered another bed from the carpentry shop,” Nachman said, beaming with the happiness of a man who had found his niche in life. He even looked a little rounder around the belly, in praise of Ruchel’s cooking.

“Sit, Abba, sit,” he said to Tevye, motioning him to a chair. “You must be tired from the long journey. Please, by all means, take some cake. Ess, ess. Eat. Honor our house with a blessing over the food that God has so graciously given us.”

The guests sat down at the small table to eat. The sweet, creamy pastry was just what Tevye longed for after the long dusty trail. A picture of the past flashed in his eyes as he remembered his wife, Golda, and the delicious cakes she always had waiting when he trudged home from work.

What We Can Learn From Trees

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Tu B’Shevat is not just “another day.” It’s the Rosh Hashanah for trees, one of four roshei hashanah that occur in the Jewish calendar year (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1).

What’s so important about a New Year for Trees?

We live in a world filled with dark foreboding, ominous news and difficult tests. There is little obvious basis for hope, but we Jews always live with hope.

Where is the hope?

“Days are coming when Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like fruit” (Yeshayah 27:6/Haftarah Parshas Shemos).

Why is Redemption compared to the growth of a tree?

Even the mightiest tree arises from a tiny seed, invisible not only because of its size but because it is buried underground. No one but Hashem knows it exists. It draws nutrients from the earth and sustenance from the rain that seeps downward. Perhaps the seed will not survive; it may be eaten by an animal or simply be too weak to flourish.

But some seeds do survive. They put out tiny, threadlike filaments, which in turn absorb more nutrients. All this takes place in darkness under the earth. And the tiny plant grows. When the air begins to warm in the world above, those filaments poke tiny tendrils above the soil. A tender shoot creeps up through the surface of the earth and absorbs the warmth of the sun. Now additional strength flows into the plant and the root branches out below, absorbing more moisture and nutrition, pushing deeper and becoming stronger.

Above and below, the plant grows, the tendrils becoming thicker and longer. As the days warm, the shoot grows more quickly.  Soon it becomes visible. As it reaches upward, it strengthens itself below, its roots thickening and lengthening to support the growth toward the sun.

What does this have to do with us?

“A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall.  Planted in the house of Hashem, in the courtyards of our God they will flourish. They will be fruitful in old age, vigorous and fresh they will be – to declare that Hashem is just, my Rock in Whom there is no wrong” (Tehillim 92).

Plants are not all alike. Grass is different from a tree, as we see from the same Psalm: “When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity….” If our roots are deep and our head is trying to reach toward Shamayim, we will be strong and stable, but if our roots are shallow like grass and our head is near the earth, we may be vulnerable on the Day of the Great Mowing.

Let’s try to learn from the life of a tree. We live in a loud, brash world. It is considered commendable to be aggressive, to prevail over others, to be “number one,” to push ahead, whether on the highway or in business, where the motto is, “kill the competition.” Look at football, for example, where the idea is to push your opponent down and out of your way.

This culture is totally opposed to the culture of Torah. We say every morning (Mishlei 3:19), “What are we? What is our life?…What is our strength? What is our insight?…Are not all heroes as nothing before You, the famous as if they never existed, the wise as if devoid of wisdom and the perceptive as if devoid of intelligence? For…the days of their lives are empty before You. The preeminence of man over beast is non-existent, for all is vain….”

We can learn this from the growth of a tree. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork. Day following day…and night following night bespeaks wisdom. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard” (Tehillim 19).

Everything holy is hidden.

Hashem is supremely hidden. By definition, He is not perceptible. Those who try to emulate Hashem also try to emulate His invisibility. For this reason, a tzaddik is a hidden person, always trying to flee from recognition. He does not need recognition; his status and stature are from Hashem. “Do not seek greatness for yourself and do not covet honor” (Pirkei Avos 6:5).

The more kedushah, the more hidden.

“Indeed, He will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil; He will conceal me in the concealment of His tent” (Tehillim 27).

The Aron HaKodesh was hidden even when the Beis HaMikdosh was standing, let alone today, when no one knows where it is. Only one person, the kohen gadol, entered the Kodesh HaKadoshim on only one day of the year, Yom Kippur, and that person and that day were enwrapped in sanctity.

One Good Deed

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

One Good Deed

A person should always strive to do good, for one good deed alone may assure him the rewards of Gan Eden. For Rabi Yehudah HaNasi would say, “One may acquire Gan Eden in a single hour while another may acquire it after many years [over a lifetime].” (Avodah Zara 10b).

One such incident occurred many years ago in the town of Koritz wherein lived a tailor who made a special effort to violate every precept of the Torah. No respectable Jew would deal with him.

One day the tailor died and as was the custom of the time, the gabbai of the town called upon the people to attend the funeral of a fellow Jew. But no person would attend the funeral of this evil person.

The gabbai then approached the home of the Gaon Reb Pinchas. Imagine his surprise when the Gaon took his cane and started out for the funeral. When the gabbai next visited Rav Yakov, and told him that Reb Pinchas was attending the funeral, he expressed surprise.

“I must see why Reb Pinchas is attending the funeral of such a sinner,” he said and he too started out for the funeral.

Everyone Attends the Funeral

When the people of the city saw these two pious rabbanim attending the funeral of the sinner, they became intrigued and they all began to follow the entourage. Eventually the entire city turned out to pay homage to the tailor.

On the way home from the funeral, the crowd surrounded Reb Pinchas and demanded to know why he had attended the funeral.

“I will tell you the reason,” said the Gaon. “Two months ago I was trying to raise hachnassas kallah funds. I finally succeeded in raising sufficient money to arrange for the wedding. But at the last hour the groom backed out. He said he had been promised a new suit by the bride’s parents and unless he received it, he would call off the wedding.

“In desperation the bride turned to me for help. As I had already approached every resident of the community for money, I had no choice but to turn to the tailor for help. That night I entered his home and told him the story. He gave me a ruble. But as I started to leave he called me back and said, ‘Rebbe, if I give you all the money for the entire suit will you promise me the future world, Olam Habah?’

“Yes,” I said. “He then gave me fourteen rubles and I was able to perform the wedding ceremony. Now that I heard that this tailor died I decided to attend his funeral and see the results of his charity.

“Would you believe it,” continued the Rabbi before the multitude of people, “over the coffin I saw a shining halo of a suit and angels dancing around the coffin waiting to escort it into Gan Eden. Therefore you can see how great is the mitzvah of tzedakah. One mitzvah alone saved this man and assured him a place in the next world.”

Hospitality To Strangers

Being hospitable to travelers is one the cardinal mitzvos of our Torah. The Talmud tells us: Rabi Yehudah said, “Hachnassas orchim is greater than even welcoming the presence of the Shechinah” (Shabbos 127a). Rabi Yochanan said, “Hospitality to strangers is as great as the early attendance at the Beis Hamedrash” and Rabi Dimi of Neharea said, “It is greater than the early attendance at the Beis Hamedrash.” Therefore every community in the small towns in Europe, would have a gabbai whose duty it was to assign travelers to the various homes in the community for Shabbos. When a stranger would arrive in town he would seek out this gabbai who would then place him in one of the well-to-do homes.

One Friday, very late in the afternoon, a merchant entered the town of Altuna. As the gabbai had already exhausted all of the host’s homes, he was in a quandary where to send the poor man for Shabbos.

“You better see the rav, the Gaon, Rav Yonason Jonathan Eibschitz,” he said. “Perhaps he may have a place for you. Although he himself has already taken more of his share of people, he may have a suggestion.”

They both went to the Gaon’s home where ,as usual, there were more than a dozen guests and absolutely no place for another person.

“Tell me gabbai,” asked the Gaon,” Does Reb Lazer have any guests for this Shabbos?”

“That skinflint,” snorted the gabbai, “He is the wealthiest man in town and yet he will never allow a stranger to enter his home. He is too sick to entertain guests, he claims.”

“I have a plan,” replied the Gaon. Calling the merchant over to him he said, “If you will follow my instructions to the letter I can assure you that this wealthy miser will welcome you with outstretched arms.”

Big Bang On Glenbrook

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

For 10 years our front door was 35 feet from the busiest road leading in and out of Morristown, New Jersey. Zoom, zoom, zoom…one car after another going 40-50 miles per hour, not only during the morning and afternoon rush hours, but all week long. Even when we stood by our front door, we had to yell at the top of our lungs to call to our children who were playing in our tiny front yard. “Why didn’t you come in when we called you?” my wife often asked. “We didn’t hear you,” they often answered. Sometimes it was an excuse. On Shabbos, traffic was lighter but far from quiet. Many times we had to close the windows to have a conversation at our Shabbos table.

Recently we moved to Monsey, New York. Divine Providence led us to a foreclosed house on Glenbrook Road in the Wesley Hills neighborhood of Monsey. Sometimes, but not too often, one will see three cars travelling down the road at the same time. On Shabbos a car going down Glenbrook is a rare sight – maybe two or three during the entire 25 hours. But it’s not just the rarity of cars. The narrow forest of tall, mature, and majestic trees running behind the homes on Glenbrook imbue the neighborhood with an added aura of peace and quiet. Shabbos in Monsey is like a taste of Gan Eden.

One of the most beautiful – and most memorable – days that I can remember in our new neighborhood occurred on Friday, June 3, 2011.  The air felt warm and dry, the sun shined softly, and the sky reflected a gorgeous blue. What a contrast with the weather of May – weeks of heavy rains, cloudy skies, strong winds, alternating days of chilly air and muggy high heat, the threat of tornados – and, worst of all, water in my basement.

By 7 p.m. on that delicious Friday, the serenity had reached its peak. All of the men and boys (except for me and a few others who don’t make Shabbos early) had already gathered in shul. Soon they would be singing “L’cha dodi: Come, my Beloved, to meet the Bride; let us welcome the Shabbat.”

My son Dovid and I were standing on our deck, cooking chicken on the grill for the Shabbos meal. The fat from the chicken dripped and the flames flared up with a sizzling crack and a pop. For my son and me, Shabbos would begin in an hour at sunset. In the meantime, we were sharing with one of those rare “Kodak moments” before the big day –four days away when Dovid would turn 13 and become a “man.” Dovid’s zaidy, my father, of blessed memory, would have cherished being at his grandson’s bar mitzvah. However, that’s the way of life – until death will be forever removed. Meanwhile, the old generation must eventually make room for the new one. Young trees cannot grow tall when overshadowed by the grand, old trees. In such a peaceful neighborhood, it’s easier to meditate on such thoughts.

Holding the tongs, Dovid flipped over a grilled thigh of chicken.

Rrrripp! Bang!

We jumped. Lightning? Thunder? No, the sky was all blue.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

“What was that?” I asked.

“Sounds like fireworks,” Dovid said.

Jeff, the neighbor next door, called out from his yard, “Tzvi, did you hear that?”

The three of us ran to the front. The road was clear. It wasn’t a car accident. We ran up Glenbrook. A group of women and girls were standing in the driveway of the Epstein’s house.

In Praise Of Bubby

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The Gemara in Brachos says that one is not allowed to add his own praises of Hashem while davening. The Gemara explains that by doing so it could seem that what one added was the only praise missing, and that there are no more praises of Hashem. Similarly, Bubby, for one to try to mention all of your praises would be impossible. With that said I would like to mention a few points, without implying that this is all there is to be said.


 


In Shemos the pasuk tells us, “Vayakam melech chadash b’Mitzrayim.” Rashi explains that there is a machlokes as to whether it was a new king or the old king who made new laws. We can understand those that say it was an old king with new laws. However, how do those who say it was a new king explain that he did not know of Yosef? It was only a few years since Yosef’s death and he had saved the entire country from a famine. He was second in command and made Mitzrayim into a superpower. The answer is that, of course, he heard of Yosef but, because he had not witnessed Yosef’s greatness personally, he could not truly fathom it.

 

Bubby, this can be said of your greatness and of your chesed and maasim tovim, for they, too, were so awesome and great. Bubby, you were zoche to see five generations – for which it is said you will go to Gan Eden. But I’m worried that the next generation won’t be able to comprehend fully how great you were. For those who were fortunate to witness Bubby it is incumbent that we constantly review and remind ourselves of her great deeds, lest we forget. Hopefully, we will be able to properly pass down to our children who Bubby was.

 

When I got engaged, Bubby asked me whether I had mentioned to my kallah that we come from a long lineage of rabbis, including the Chasam Sofer, the Divrei Chaim, and the Aruch Hashulchan. I”yH, I hope to tell my children and their children, do you know who you come from, besides the above mentioned list I will tell them they come from you, Bubby and Zaidy.

 

We bless our children every Friday night, “Yasimcha Elokim k’Efraim uk’Menashe.” The question is: why do we ask that our children be likened to Efraim and Menashe over all the other shivatim? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answered that, generally, there is an inherent yeridas hadoros. The further away one is, the weaker the mesorah. Yaakov Avinu felt that this was not the case with Efraim and Menashe. Although they were his grandchildren, he felt that they were on the same level as if they were his children, and the mesorah was not weakened.

 

Bubby, you were marich yomim and it was a zechus for everyone whose lives you were able to touch. You have helped keep the mesorah alive for us. I hope that we will be able to keep vibrant the mesorah that is from you.

 

I remember Bubby and Zaidy saying you should go m’chayil el chayil. Now it is our turn to wish it upon you Bubby, may you go m’chayil el chayil. However, I would like to add the end of that pasuk (from Tehillim), “yirah el Elokim b’Tzion.” The Gemara at the end of Brachos interprets this to mean those who go from multitudes of good deeds to multitudes of good deeds will merit to be mekabel pnei haShechina.

 

Bubby, you have definitely conducted your life in this manner – going from multitudes of greatness, good deeds, chesed and mitzvos to another. You shall now go and receive your reward, be mekabel pnei haShechina. May you bring with you your armies of zechusim and be a meylitz yosher for the family and for all Klal Yisroel and help bring the geula sh’leima b’karov.

Title: The Equation of Life: Making Your Life and History Add Up

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Title: The Equation of Life: Making Your Life and History Add Up

Author: Pinchas Winston

Publisher: Thirtysix.org

 

 

Twenty five plus 11=36. That is “the equation of life, since it is the operating principle of all Creation,” writes Rabbi Pinchas Winston. A former Aish HaTorah professional, the teacher, public speaker and author proves that these numbers indicate what should have happened in Gan Eden: history would have come to a glorious, painless end and we’d be better off for it.

 

   Fear not, the 215-page paperback is an enjoyable read as it defines the spiritual values of the integers named above and the formula for getting things right today. The book empowers its readers to literally save the universe.

 

   You will learn that reality is not particularly “stable.” Fluctuating with possibilities, reality is vulnerable to human action (mistakes included) and inaction. Quotations from Malbim, Ohr HaGanuz, Shaarei Leshem, Zohar plus arcane and widely known commentaries by Torah sages are deftly interspersed throughout Winston’s text. They and he make the case for “The 13 Principles of History” chapter. The key lesson there segues into the “World History Has Built-In End Dates” portion of the book.

 

   The section entitled “Time Limits in History” captures all the above, underscoring the point that when anti-Semitism proliferates, it’s sign that the protective Shechina is leaving a particular geographic area. Learn why on pages 147-150.

 

   The negative result of a Shechina-challenged situation is defined on page 151. Her departure leaves each Jew with a choice that has been offered since Adam erred. We can redeem ourselves with proactive behavior and intention taught in Torah literature or

   Save the world as you save yourself. Learn what to do, and why, when you buy this powerful paperback at www.thritysix.org.

 

   Yocheved Golani is the author of E-book “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge”  (www.booklocker.com/books/4244.html).

Questions Need To Be Welcomed, Not Disparaged

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I was apprised of the fact that a renowned rav and posek in Flatbush dedicated his Shabbos morning drasha to the plight of a young lady who was recently dismissed from her Brooklyn Bais Yaakov. It seems she vexed the administration because she asked her teacher incisive questions about the nature of Gan Eden. Thankfully, due to the intervention of this prominent rav, she was reinstated to her school.

Thousands of frum individuals grow up with gnawing questions about the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit. Their questions may be trite and simplistic (i.e., Why do we keep Shabbos?) or profound and weighty (i.e., How do I know there is a God? or Hashem knows everything, including every move I make; yet I have free will. How can the two co-exist?).

It’s not the particular question that is germane – every sincere and thoughtful question is relevant and important. Rather, it’s the way the question is received and handled. Sadly, most often the questions are either rebuffed or repudiated by parents and teachers. Some adolescents are even slapped or labeled with the pejorative “apikores.” The outcome is that in some cases the seeker despondently resolves to trudge through life with lingering and unresolved doubts in ikrei emunah, and in other cases, tragically, they throw in the towel, religiously.

The Hebrew word for question, she’ailah, is etymologically derived from the word sha’al – to borrow or request. According to Rashbam, Tosafos, Chizkuni, Klei Yakar, and other commentaries, sha’al, in this context, does not mean to borrow but denotes requesting something that is one’s rightful possession – one’s natural entitlement.

It is against Torah hashkafah to take offense or to reject a sincere question. Just as water sustains the physical world and is free and accessible to everyone (this predates New York City’s water meters!), so too should knowledge be available freely. This is precisely why, according to the halachic ideal, one should not charge tuition to dispense Torah knowledge (see Yoreh Deah, 246:5).

The late Sy Syms said in relation to his discount clothing chain, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” His slogan is a fitting credo for Judaism. When we avoid answering questions and penalize a child for asking, it compromises the integrity and absolute authenticity of our mesorah. It projects insecurity and appears to the child as if we have something to hide. How incongruous! Judaism has all the answers. We live in an age where Torah knowledge is awing the greatest scientists and most resolute atheists.

If only parents and educators would be more candid and unveil the vast contemporary knowledge found in Torah, it would preempt many such questions.

Science is now on the offensive, catching up to Torah. For example, how many of our students know that at the 1990 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the meeting’s chairman, Dr. Geoffrey Burbidge, astrophysicist at the University of California at San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Science (and former director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory), commented: “It seems clear that the audience is in favor of the book of Genesis – at least the first verse or so, which seems to have been confirmed.”

Do we speak to our children and students about modern-day miracles that show God’s intervention in the world?

For example: Eretz Yisrael lay desolate and barren for almost two thousand years. Mark Twain traveled there in 1867. He reported: “There is such desolation; one cannot even imagine that life’s beauty and productivity once existed here . [The Land of Israel] dwells in sackcloth and ashes. The spell of a curse hovers over her, which has blighted her fields and imprisoned her mighty potential with shackles. [The Land of Israel] is wasteland, devoid of delight.”

The world’s greatest civilizations fruitlessly attempted to restore life to the land. In fulfillment of the Torah’s prophecies, miraculously, as soon as the Jews returned, starting in the late 19th century, the land became fertile and reinvigorated.

Another example: After the Persian Gulf War, two eminent scientific journals (Nature and MIT’s Nature and Arms Defense Studies) were puzzled about the apparent Divine protection that Eretz Yisrael had been afforded from Scud missiles. Both journals devoted full-length research articles to attempt to logically explicate the hows and whys behind the purported miracles.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/questions-need-to-be-welcomed-not-disparaged/2010/02/03/

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