Sunday, January 13, 2008


The theme of this daf (Nedarim 22) is anger. The dof start talking about the bad and evil consequences of anger and how it can lead you to gehinnom. At the end of the dof we learn that anger can be used sometimes for a positive reason, as we see Rav Sechorah got “angrier” and angrier at Rav Nachman for making a neder. This was a basis for a pesach. There is a second story again how anger was used for a positive purpose at the Rabbis deliberately got themselves mad by walking from the shade to the sun (See the Mefaresh). Anger can be used in a positive way or can be a very negative middah. We see Moshe Rabbeinu used anger in a positive way when he broke the luchos to teach Bnei Yisrael a lesson and to spur them to t’suvah. We see one can “pretend” to be angry to perform a mitzvah or encourage t’suvah.

by Rabbi Yosef Dov Karr

Friday, July 20, 2007

Reb Oizer on Devarim

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Devorim – Vol. 2, Issue 37
Compiled by Oizer Alport

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל (1:1)
There is a mystical idea that the content of the parsha read each Shabbos is connected to the events of the coming week. It is interesting to note that Parshas Devorim is always read on the Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av. What is the connection between them?
The Gemora in Yoma (9b) teaches that one of the reasons for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was the sin of baseless hatred of one’s fellow Jews. Many times such hatred has its origins in forbidden forms of speech, such as gossip and painful words.
Our verse opens the book of Devorim by relating that “these are the words which Moshe spoke to all of the Jewish people.” However, the Vilna Gaon reinterprets the verse to suggest that Moshe himself addressed the need to rectify the sins which caused the Temple’s destruction. The verse begins, “These are the words that Moshe spoke.” And what were those words? The Vilna Gaon explains that the end of the verse can be read not as merely describing to whom Moshe spoke, but as the beginning of Moshe’s actual message. He didn’t speak “to the entire Jewish people,” but rather told the people, “Be united as one nation, not splintered into factions.”
Additionally, the Vilna Gaon points out that the very first word in the parsha, אלה, is an acronym for אבק לשון הרע, literally the “dust” of evil speech, used to refer to traces of gossip which are forbidden as they often incite full-blown lashon hara.
Many people who speak in this manner mistakenly justify their behavior by rationalizing that mere words cannot cause any real damage to others. The name of the parsha – Devorim – means “words.” As the end product of this erroneous thinking was a widespread hatred powerful enough to destroy the Temple, we allude to the importance of rectifying this sin by beginning the week in which Tisha B’Av falls with the reading of Parshas Devorim.

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה (1:1)
There are 5 books in the written Torah, and 6 sections of the Mishnah – the Oral Torah. The Paneiach Raza writes that there are 6 portions in the written Torah which correspond to the Mishnah, each of which begins with the letter א – אלה תולדות נח, אלה פקודי, אם בחוקתי, אלה מסעי, אלה הדברים, אתם נצבים. This is because the spelling of the letter “א” – אלף – comes from the root meeting to study, and the word Mishnah also means to learn.
Of the 6 portions, four begin with the word אלה, which alludes to the four sections of the Mishnah on which we also have Talmudic commentary, as the gematria (numerical value) of the word אלה is 36, which is also the number of tractates in the Babylonian Talmud! The last book of the Torah, Devorim, begins with one of these four parshios in order to teach that in reviewing the Torah and its laws with the nation before his death, Moshe reviewed not only the written Torah but the entire Talmud and Oral Law as well.
Similarly, there are 5 tractates in the Mishnah which begin with the letter א – אלו דברים שאין להם שיעור (פאה), אור לארבעה עשר (פסחים), ארבעה ראשי שנים הם (ראש השנה), ארבעה אבות נזיקין (בבא קמא), אבות הטומאות (כלים), which hint to the 5 books of the written Torah and teach that every component of Torah is deeply intertwined. The Torah itself represents the Will of Hashem, and just as He and His Will are one, so too all parts of the Torah are interconnected, and the components which may seem the most disparate and unrelated are full of deep and powerful wisdom waiting to be unlocked by one who toils to uncover it!

הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם (1:13)
The book of Devorim begins with Moshe’s review of the 40-year national history from the time of the Exodus until the present. Rashi (1:3) notes that much of the parsha revolves around Moshe’s rebuke of the Jewish nation for sins they committed during this period, in an attempt to ensure that they wouldn’t continue in these mistaken ways. What is curious to note is that in our verse, Moshe seems to digress from his chastisement to stress that the Jewish people are distinguished, wise, and understanding. Why did he interrupt his focus on reproaching the people with this point, which is hardly a message of rebuke?
Shlomo HaMelech writes in Mishlei (9:8): Do not reprimand a scoffer lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you. Why would the wise Shlomo advise rebuking a person who seemingly shouldn’t need it and ignoring a scoffer whose ways need correcting?
The Shelah HaKadosh suggests that the erudite Shlomo is actually talking about only one person. The Torah obligates (Vayikra 19:17) a person who sees another Jew engaged in inappropriate activities to rebuke him and attempt to inspire him to change his ways and return to the proper path. In order to do so successfully, a bit of wisdom is required.
Shlomo HaMelech advises that talking condescendingly to the scoffer will be useless and cause the sinner to hate the one attempting to reprove him. However, talking to him as if he is wise and respectable will likely move the sinner to accept his words and love him for caring about him and coming to his assistance.
A modern-day application of this lesson is offered by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, a well-known contemporary psychiatrist and author. He writes that when growing up, he was a typical child who got into his share of trouble. However, his father taught him a priceless lesson in how to raise well-adjusted children by the manner in which he rebuked him.
All too often, we hear parents screaming at their children, “You good-for-nothing bum! How could you have been so foolish and lazy?” A child who grows up repeatedly hearing this message slowly absorbs the belief that he truly is foolish and lazy. Not surprisingly, he will likely go on to make decisions in his life which will reflect this self-image.
Rabbi Twerski’s father, on the other hand, used to scold his children in Yiddish, “Es past nisht” – what you did isn’t appropriate for somebody as wonderful and special as you! The message which was constantly driven into him was that he was an amazing child with tremendous potential who simply needed to maintain his focus on channeling his energy properly. As one might expect, he grew up with an unshakably positive self-esteem which surely contributed to his success in life.
With this introduction, the Shelah HaKadosh explains that before fully launching into his criticism of the Jewish people, Moshe first built them up by emphasizing their many good qualities and tremendous potential, which would in turn allow his message to be well-received. The lesson for us is clear: whenever we may need to correct a family member, friend, or co-worker, we should do so in the wise and proven manner taught to us by Moshe Rabbeinu and Shlomo HaMelech.

ואצוה את שפטיכם בעת ההוא לאמר שמע בין אחיכם ושפטתם צדק בין איש ובין אחיו ובין גרו (1:16)
Even in his youth, the great Rav Yonason Eibeshutz was known for his remarkable diligence in his studies. While his peers idly passed their free time playing games and acting their ages, Rav Yonason utilized every spare moment for the study of Torah. Somebody once asked him about his behavior, questioning whether he wouldn’t be happier if he spent at least a portion of his free time engaged in more age-appropriate extracurricular activities.
Rav Yonason, demonstrating the sharp mind for which he later became world-famous, explained his conduct based on a Gemora in Sanhedrin (7b). One opinion in the Gemora cites our verse as the source of the law that a judge may not listen to the claims of one of the litigants if the other party isn’t present to challenge his arguments. This is hinted to by the words שמע בין אחיכם – you shall listen between your brothers – which teaches that a judge may only listen to the accusations of one party if the other is present at the time.
The Gemora in Sanhedrin (91b) teaches that a person receives his yetzer hara (evil inclination) at birth, whereas his yetzer tov (good inclination) doesn’t enter him until his Bar Mitzvah, at which point he is held accountable for his actions. Even a person who never becomes a judge in a Jewish court still serves as a judge every moment of his life, as he must constantly listen to the arguments of the two “litigants” inside of him – his yetzer hara and his yetzer tov – and sort them out to reach a judgment about the proper course of action to choose.
“While closing my books to indulge in the hobbies and games enjoyed by the other boys may seem quite tempting,” concluded the wise-beyond-his-years Rav Yonason, “this is the opinion of only one of the litigants – my yetzer hara. As a judge, I am forbidden to listen to his claims until my Bar Mitzvah, at which time the other party will be able to present its counter-claims, and I will be able to reach a judgment regarding the proper course of action. However, until that time, the ‘law’ gives me no choice but to ignore him and to diligently continue with my Torah studies!”

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) As the entire Torah and its laws had been taught in their entirety to Moshe, why are so many important mitzvos, such as Shema, mentioned only in the book of Devorim?
2) Rashi writes (1:3) that Moshe waited to rebuke the Jewish people until close to his death. What purpose was there in rebuking the Jews who were alive at this time for sins committed by their parents and of which they themselves were innocent? (Darash Moshe Vol. 2)
3) Masechta Sofrim (1:7) relates that the day King Ptolemy ordered five of the Jewish elders to translate the Torah into Greek was as painful and difficult for the Jews as the day on which they sinned with the golden calf. In what way was this worse than Moshe’s translation of the Torah into all 70 languages (Rashi 1:5), which presumably includes Greek? (Mishmeres Ariel, Ye’aros Devash quoted in Shiras Dovid, HaK’sav V’HaKabbalah)
4) Rashi writes (1:13) that one would never entertain the possibility that a woman is eligible to serve as a judge. On what basis is it so clear that one could never even consider the possibility that a woman may serve as a judge, especially in light of Tosefos in Niddah (50a d.h. kol), which discusses whether we may derive from Devorah (Shoftim 4:4-5) that women may indeed serve as judges? (Rinas Yitzchok, M’rafsin Igri, Ee’bayei L’hu)
5) Moshe commanded the judges (1:17) not to fear any man (i.e. any potential litigant). If a judge fears that one of the litigants may actually kill him, is he permitted to recuse himself from the trial in order to protect himself? (Kli Chemda, Bishvilei HaParsha, Rambam Sefer HaMitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 276, Shaarei Teshuvah 3:33, Bach Choshen Mishpat 12:1)
6) If a judge mystically recognizes from the faces of the litigants that one of them is guilty, is he permitted to use this knowledge when ruling on the case? (Doveiv Sifsei Yeshonim 1:17)
7) Why did Moshe devote significantly more time to rebuking the Jewish people for the sin of the spies than for the sin of the golden calf?
8) Why did Moshe approve of the people’s suggestion to send spies to scout out the land of Israel (1:22-23) instead of responding that they should trust in Hashem and there was no need to do so? (Kometz HaMincha, Taima D’Kra Parshas Shelach)
9) Rashi writes (2:17) that for the duration of the 38-year period in which the Jewish nation was in Divine disfavor due to the sin of the spies, Hashem didn’t speak to Moshe in the manner in which He was accustomed. Did Hashem communicate with Moshe at all during this time, and if so, in what fashion did He do so? (Rashi Taanis 30b, Rashbam Bava Basra 121b, Rabbeinu Bechaye)
10) There are four blessings which – in the Diaspora, where Yom Tov is observed for two days – are recited exactly once annually, one of which is associated with this time of the year. How many of them can you identify?

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Computers Searches Cannot Fool Reb Chaim

Recently an interesting episode occurred with Reb Chaim Kanievsky that demonstrated that despite the amazing advances made by modern technology, nothing can be substituted for diligence in Torah study. A Torah scholar in Bnei Barak was discussing Torah topics with Reb Chaim and he queried Reb Chaim regarding the amount of instances where the name Moshe is listed in the Torah. Reb Chaim immediately responded that the name Moshe is listed 414 times in the Torah, to which the questioner responded that he believes that the name Moshe appears 416 times. Reb Chaim smiled and responded that apparently this person had done a computer search which resulted in the extra listings of the word Moshe, as in one instance the word is miseh, from the sheep, and in the second instance, the word is masheh, which means to lend, but certainly these words do not refer to Moshe.

Translated and edited by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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Mishna Berurah (14:16) writes that people are accustomed to finding a siddur in Shul and using it in order to daven. He comments that he does not know the heter for this. Why is it different than seforim, which the Rema rules that it is forbidden to use someone elses without their specific permission for perhaps you will tear it during your learning.

Aruch HaShulchan (14:13) rules that it is permitted since the majority of people are not particular regarding this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Loshon Hara on Eretz Yisroel

What is the source for speaking loshon hara on Eretz Yisroel? Does this apply to all inanimate objects?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Beha'aloscha by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Behaaloscha – Vol. 2, Issue 30
Compiled by Oizer Alport

זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם (11:5)
On our verse, which relates that the complainers lamented their recollection of the fish they used to eat in Egypt, the Medrash Pliah cryptically remarks מכאן שמדליקין נרות בשבת – from our verse we may derive that one is obligated to light candles for Shabbos, a mitzvah which has no apparent connection to our verse whatsoever.
The Chida explains the Medrash Pliah by noting that we must first understand what they were complaining about, as we are told that one was able to make the Manna taste like anything he so desired simply through his thoughts. If so, why were they complaining about the fish they used to eat in Egypt when they were perfectly capable of causing the Manna to take on that taste with no effort whatsoever?
Rather, the Gemora in Yoma (74b) states that although one was able to make the Manna taste like anything he desired, it nevertheless retained the standard appearance of the Manna. Even though they were able to make the Manna taste like fish, they lacked the enjoyment and satiety which comes from seeing the food which they wished to taste. The Gemora there even notes that a blind person won’t enjoy or become as full from a meal as a person with normal vision who consumes the same food.
Based on this complaint, the Medrash Pliah questioned how a person will be able to avoid the same dilemma on Shabbos, as he won’t be able to enjoy and appreciate the Shabbos delicacies if he is forced to eat them in darkness, and it therefore concluded that from our verse we may derive that a person is obligated to light candles for Shabbos!

והמן כזרע גד הוא ועינו כעין הבדלח (11:7)
מי שאמר זו לא אמר זו ישראל אומרים בלתי אל המן עינינו והקב"ה הכתיב בתורה והמן כזרע גד וגו' כלומר ראו באי עולם על מה מתלוננים בני והמן כך וכך הוא חשוב (רש"י)
During their travels in the wilderness, a group of complainers began to lament the Manna which they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent tastes of the meat, fish, and vegetables which they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except for Manna. On our verse, Rashi explains that in response to their complaint, Hashem wrote in the Torah a description of how wonderful the Manna was as if to say, “Look, inhabitants of the world, at what my children are complaining about.”
Rav Pam notes that although we don’t merit hearing it, a Divine voice expressing frustration over the things we complain about still goes out regularly. We live in a time of unprecedented freedom and material bounty, and we are surrounded by a society which influences us to believe that we are entitled to immediate gratification, to have everything we want, when and exactly how we want it. If we would only step back and view our lives with the proper perspective, we would be so overwhelmed by the blessings we enjoy that there would be no room to complain about trivialities.
Although we don’t usually hear Hashem’s direct communication about this point, sometimes He sends us the message about priorities and values through a human agent, as illustrated in the following story. A student in a yeshiva was once complaining with his friends about the quality and selection of the meals that they were served. Each boy heaped more and more criticism on every aspect of the food, until they were jolted to their senses by one of the elderly teachers in the yeshiva. The Rabbi couldn’t help but overhear their loud complaints in the dining hall and walked over to deliver a succinct lesson: “In Auschwitz we would have done anything to have gotten such food.”
Every time that a husband comes home to a messy house, filled with children’s toys and dirty clothes, and once again berates his wife over her inability to keep their house clean, a Heavenly voice challenges, “How many families would do anything to have children and would gladly clean up the mess that accompanies them, and here is somebody who has been blessed with healthy children and is upset that they make his house disorderly? Where are his priorities?”
When a husband or a child complains about eating the same supper for the 3rd consecutive night, Hashem can’t help but point out how many poverty-stricken families would do anything to eat this dinner every night for a year, if only to enjoy a nutritional and filling repast. Every time that the parents of the bride and groom quarrel over petty wedding-related issues, a Bas Kol (Heavenly voice) wonders how many parents will cry themselves to sleep that evening over their inability to find a proper match for their aging son or daughter, and who would gladly accede to any terms the other side would set … if only there would be another side.
The next time that we find ourselves upset about issues which are objectively nothing more than nuisances and minor inconveniences, let us remember the lesson of the Manna and open our ears to hear Hashem’s response to our complaints.

וישמע משה את העם בכה למשפחתיו (11:10)
על עסקי משפחות על עריות הנאסרות להם (רש"י)
The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) teaches that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with joy, such as circumcision, is still performed happily to the present day. Any mitzvah that was accepted with fighting, such as forbidden relationships, is still accompanied by tension, as the issues involved in the negotiation of every wedding cause struggles. Of all commandments, why did the Jews specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?
Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher suggests that when the Jews heard that they would be unable to marry their close relatives, they feared that they would be unable to enjoy successful marriages. They believed that the ideal candidate for marriage would be a person who was familiar since birth and who would be almost identical in terms of values and stylistic preferences. From the Torah’s prohibition to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that Hashem’s vision of marriage differs from our own.
The Mas’as HaMelech derives a similar lesson from Parshas Ki Seitzei, which begins by discussing the Y’fas Toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This is difficult to understand, as only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army. Rashi writes (Devorim 20:8) that somebody who had committed even the smallest Rabbinical sin was sent back from the war. How could such pious Rabbis be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman?
Rashi writes (21:11) that a person who marries a Y’fas Toar will ultimately give birth to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh – wayward son. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. The Mas’as HaMelech explains that even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice is identical to his. All external signs seem to indicate that she is meant for him, and he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is to convert her and marry her.
However, from the fact that Rashi teaches that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the two partners enter already identical. A Torah marriage is one in which the two partners grow together over time to understand and respect one another, allowing them to overcome their differences and create a beautiful, harmonious blend of their unique perspectives and experiences.

האנכי הריתי את כל העם הזה אם אנכי ילדתיהו ... מאין לי בשר לתת לכל העם הזה (11:12-13)
The S’fas Emes once noted that one of his recently-married Gerrer chassidim had suddenly become much less diligent in his studies. The Rebbe approached the newlywed and inquired as to the source of his recent absence from the Beis Medrash. The chossid was embarrassed that the Rebbe noticed his declining involvement in Talmudic studies, but explained that he was having a difficult time meeting his financial needs and was being forced to spend an increasing amount of time working to support his new wife. The Rebbe asked whether he was receiving any financial assistance from his parents, to which the chossid replied that his father wanted to help him but simply didn’t have the money to do so.
The sagacious S’fas Emes called in the newlywed’s father to discuss his worries that the chossid, who possessed great potential, was being derailed from his true calling by financial matters. The father expressed his concern but reiterated that he was simply unable to do anything to be of material assistance.
The Rebbe replied by asking him why Moshe Rabbeinu, in his complaints to Hashem, began by asking whether he had conceived and given birth to the Jewish nation, and only subsequently continued to express his inability to supply them with the tremendous amount of meat necessary to meet their desires. If he knew that he lacked the means to provide them with their request, why was it relevant whether or not he gave birth to them?
The chossid remained silent, to which the Rebbe answered that we derive from here that only because Moshe didn’t conceive the Jewish nation was he able to excuse himself with the argument that he was incapable of meeting their demands, but if somebody did indeed give birth to another, then the claim of lack of means to assist and support them is completely invalid!

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) As the Gemora in Yoma (24b) rules that lighting the Menorah isn’t considered part of the Divine service and may be performed by a non-Kohen, why is the section discussing the lighting of the Menorah addressed (8:1) specifically to Aharon? (Ritva and Tosefos Yeshonim Yoma 24b, Raavad and Mahar”i Korkos Hilchos Bias Mikdash 9:7, D’var Avrohom 1:14, Mikdash Dovid 21:2, Tzafnas Paneiach Hilchos Berachos 11:15, Shu”t Tzafnas Paneiach 52 and 251, Meshech Chochmah, Chazon Ish Menachos 30:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
2) Rashi writes (8:2) that there was a step in front of the Menorah upon which the Kohen would stand when cleaning out and lighting the Menorah. As the Menorah was only 18 tefachim tall (approximately 5 feet), why was it necessary for the Kohen to stand on a step to light it? (Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, Rav Leib Tzintz quoted in P’ninei Kedem)
3) Rashi writes (11:5) that the Manna tasted like whatever the person eating it desired, except for five tastes which it couldn’t take on because they are unhealthy for nursing women. Did the person eating it need to actually state the taste that he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think it? (Shemos Rabbah 25:3, Moshav Z’keinim 11:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon Parshas Beshalach)
4) Rashi writes (11:10) that the Jews began to weep over the fact that with the giving of the Torah, they were forbidden to marry various relatives. There is a Talmudic maxim (Yevamos 22a) גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי – one who converts to Judaism is considered to be newly born, and is therefore not considered to be legally related to any of his former family members. Why did the Jews cry over the forbidden relationships when they all converted at Mount Sinai and were no longer considered to be related? (Gur Aryeh Bereishis 46:10, Shev Shmaitsa Hakdama 9, Kli Chemdah Vayigash 2, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 1:136, Chiddushei HaGranat Kesuvos 28, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M’rafsin Igri)
5) Is it permissible for a person who is suffering – physically or emotionally – to pray that he, or another person who is in pain, should die? (Ramban 11:15, Ran and Maharsha Nedorim 40a, Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 335, HaEmek Sh’eilah and Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 93, Shabbos 30a, Sefer Chassidim 301, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
6) The Gemora in Arachin (16a) teaches that a person is afflicted with tzara’as as a punishment for speaking lashon hara only if his words caused actual damage. Why was Miriam stricken with tzara’as (12:10) when her criticism of Moshe had no effect? (Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 98, Chofetz Chaim in Be’er Mayim Chaim Hilchos Lashon Hara 3:6, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to