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IF YOU ARE QUIET, YOU WILL HEAR


When my wife and I were college students, we joined the “Peace Movement,” protesting the Vietnam War. This was before we became aware of our Jewishness; we were looking for something to fill up the spiritual vacuum, but there was no peace in the Peace Movement.  

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SEVEN WORDS


Just seven words. It was not a Gemora, not a Rashi. It was a few words from a commentary explaining a Tosfos. I was sitting in Yerushalayim early Shabbos morning and trying to understand those seven words. 

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WHAT WE HAVE LOST


“Al naharos Bavel … by the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat and also we wept when we remembered Tzion…. If I forget you, then let my right hand forget its skill; let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to remember you, if I fail to elevate Yerushalayim above the foremost of my joys….” (Psalm 137) 

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ONE THING I ASKED OF HASHEM!


Our grandson, Shmuel ha Levi Jungreis, was kind enough to buy us a copy of the Artscroll volume “Rav Pam on the Haftaras,” in which the late Rosh Yeshiva offers his beautiful insights on the relationship of the haftaras to the respective Torah Portion and the contents of the haftaras themselves. 

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RATIONAL BEHAVIOR


During one of those recent, frigid days, my wife noticed a lady wheeling a stroller with one hand, and, with the other, holding onto a young boy. The boy was crying loudly and bitterly. My wife saw that his coat was hanging off one arm, completely open; he was obviously freezing. Her heart went out to him, and she said to the lady, “Maybe you’d like to close his jacket.” The lady looked directly at my wife and said, “No.” 

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HOW CAN WE SING WHEN WE ARE IN MOURNING?


Rabbi Raziel Shevach was murdered several weeks ago near his home in the Shomron (north of Yerushalayim). I never met him, but I understand he was a beloved person who extended himself greatly for his fellow Jews. That makes it hurt even more. It hurts when the haters are strong and those who bless the world are suffering. This is extremely painful. 

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“WHO CAN STAND BEFORE HIS COLD?”


Did we ever have a winter like this? Who can remember such cold? On the Shabbos of January 6, wind chills in the New York Metropolitan Area reached minus twenty degrees! 

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SUDDEN REDEMPTION


Why did I not visit Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin in prison? Only after his release did I realize that he had been imprisoned in New York and not Iowa. I could so easily have gone there. I know what it means to visit a prisoner. Decades ago, when Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis was scheduled to speak to Jewish prisoners in Rikers Island Prison in New York City, an emergency arose and she asked me to fill in for her. 

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THE PURPOSE OF THE U.N. IN HASHEM’S PLAN


“A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph… and [the Egyptians] became disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” (Exodus 1:8-12)  This is amazing. How could Joseph have been forgotten? He saved Egypt! 

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THE LAMPS ARE GOING OUT


"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time." 
  

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A TEN-STRINGED INSTRUMENT AND A LYRE


As I have mentioned in the past, this week’s Torah Portion is to me the emotional high point of the entire Written Bible. Who can fail to be shaken by these words? 

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LIGHT CARVED FROM UNDER THE THRONE OF GLORY


Chanukah is about light. 

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DO YOU WANT YOUR NAME TO BE ERASED

“In the generation when [Moshiach] the son of Dovid will come, Torah scholars will decrease. And [as for] the rest [of the people], their eyes will become worn out through grief and anxiety. Numerous troubles and harsh decree will be appearing anew. Before the first [trouble] is over, a second one will … appear…. The meeting place will be [used] for licentiousness [and]… whoever turns away from evil will be [considered] foolish….” (Tractate Sanhedrin 97a) 

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THE ROSES OF EDEN


There is a long and rather surprising end to this week’s Torah Portion, beginning with the words, “these are the offspring of Esau ….” (Genesis 36:9) I counted thirty-four verses, listing name after name of the descendants of possibly the most evil person in history! Why does the Torah want us to know the descendants of Esau? 

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REAL PEOPLE CRY AND LAUGH


“Then Yaakov … raised his voice and wept.” (Genesis 29:11)  

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THE FOUNTAINS OF THE GREAT DEEP


“There was a famine in the land, aside from the first famine that was in the days of Avraham, and Yitzchak went to Avimelech, king of the Pilishtim…” (Genesis 26:1) 

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MY BRIDGE TO G-D

“Toras Hashem temima … The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise. The orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart. The command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes….” (Psalm 19) 

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INTENSE HEAT

Our Father Avraham was born in the year 1948, counting from Creation. The Prophet Malachi was born approximately 1400 years later. Jewish prophesy begins with Avraham and ends with Malachi. It is amazing to see how connected they are, and how we – some 2400 years after Malachi – are connected to them. 

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THE POINT OF PROPHESY


“Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own, and they will serve them, and they will oppress them, four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth … And the fourth generation shall return here ….” (Genesis 15:13-16) 

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NOAH AND NORTH KOREA


I had the privilege during just before Yom Kippur of speaking at Yeshiva Zeev Hatorah in the Holy City of Yerushalayim. This is the holy Torah institution presided over by the illustrious Rabbi Shmuel Brazil shlita”h. One of the students there, a young man named Yoel Fingerer, asked a very interesting question. We were discussing the War of God and Magog and the contemporary conflict between the Children of Yishmael (the Moslem Nations) and the Children of Esav (the Western Nations). 

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HOW DOES THE SUKKAH SAVE US?


“He will hide me in His Sukkah on the day of evil.” (Psalm27) 

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WHY THE SHOFAR?


As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the entire world is aware of profound danger, a palpable threat emanating from a certain dictator who has access to the most powerful weapons as well as the means to deliver those weapons to distant lands. This uncontrollable dictator does not respond to the moral considerations which guide ethical, civilized people. 

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NOTHING BELONGS TO US


“Rav Tachlifa, the brother of Ravnai Choza’ah, taught the following Baraisa: All of a person’s income is fixed from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur ….” (Beitzah 15b) 

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KA’VE EL HASHEM … HOPE TO HASHEM


“But … if you do not hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe, to perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you …. Hashem will scatter you among all the peoples, from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, and … among those nations you will not be tranquil, there will be no rest for the sole of your foot; there Hashem will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes and suffering of soul….” (Deuteronomy 28:15ff) 

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ECLIPSES AND WORLD EVENTS


“When you will go to war against your enemies….” (Deuteronomy 21:10) 

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I KNEW SUCH A PERSON


“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof … righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20) 

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COMFORT IN THE STORM


My wife and I got married in the “old days,” before we discovered Hashem. I had not wanted a rabbi to officiate at our wedding, but my wife’s grandfather insisted, so we searched for the most reform of the reform. This person provided us with a document that contained an echo of Torah, a piece of paper on which was written, “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li … I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” This was his version of a marriage contact (a kesuba).


We are about to enter the Month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” (Song of Songs 6:3) is understood to refer to Elul because the first letters of each word spell out the name of the month. (Vayikra Rabbah) Of course, this corresponds perfectly with the spiritual work of Elul, which is all about reconciliation with Hashem.


“Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe, my soul pines for Your love. Please, O G-d, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance.” (Yedid Nefesh)


Our entire existence is based on a relationship of love with Hashem. Because of that love, our relationship with Him is eternal. We have only to come back; He is waiting for us.


Teshuva, spiritual repentance, is the most upbeat process in the world. It is completely “empowering,” because teshuva is based on the knowledge that all our ills originate from our own weaknesses, and we can fix them. When apparently bad things happen, that is a sign that we have to fix something.

 

It is within our power to correct everything. As the Prophet says, “Where is your mother’s divorce document with which I sent her away?” (Isaish 50:1) We have to know that we will succeed! We have to know that even one person can bring the Redemption. Moshe Rabbeinu brought the Geulah! Yosef Hatzaddik brought the Geulah!


My childhood was spiritual suffering, as I have often mentioned. Life without Torah was black as night and confusing as a maze. I could not breathe because of constant mental anguish. I had no idea what was wrong, which in itself was a terror. But I thank Hashem for all this, because, as a result, I knew that I needed Him. If I had not been in such pain, then I would have remained in that blackness for eternity, G-d forbid.

 

My wife and I own an apartment in Yerushalayim. Recently, we had a robbery; the entire place was ransacked. One’s first reaction is shock and anger. You feel violated. You feel helpless. You desire revenge. It’s our home! How can people be so evil?


However, you also want to say, “gam zu l’tova … it is all for the best.” (Taanis 21a) But how do you say it? What could be good about this? So I tried to think: how is this good?


I had a thought. We tend to feel that we own this world. When things go well, we want to say that it all came about through “my strength and the might of my hand….” (Deuteronomy 8:17) I have a house. It is mine. I am happy there. What more do I need? This is potentially dangerous. As we read recently, “When you beget children and grandchildren and will have been long in the Land, you will grow corrupt and anger [Hashem]….” (Deuteronomy 4:25)


Something can easily go wrong when we become comfortable. We tend to forget that this is Hashem’s world. It exists only as a result of His willing it to exist. What would happen if He changes the way the world looks? What will happen when Moshiach ben Dovid comes? Will the world look the same? Will we live the way we do now? Maybe I’m hanging onto the old world, the world of Exile, and impeding the advent of Moshiach.


Before the Children of Israel left for Mount Sinai, Biblical Egypt collapsed. In order for us to leave that world and meet Hashem, we had to sever our relationship with that powerful, enticing world of Egypt.


What will happen when Moshiach ben Dovid comes? Will the world we know today look the same? Maybe the world as we know it will collapse the way Ancient Egypt collapsed. Maybe we will have to be willing to give up our familiar world in order to enter a new world.


After the robbery, I thought: Hashem is training us for the world of Moshiach. Maybe He is telling us, “You have to know what it is like when your world is turned upside down. You have to learn that this apparent cataclysm is in fact ‘for the good.’ I am going to bring you into a world that is infinitely better than the world you think is normal today.”


I have to know that the pain and the anguish are a blessing. If I know they are a blessing, then perhaps I will be able to deal with the anguish. If we can look at the chaotic events of our times in this way, then perhaps we are going to be able to accept the future that Hashem is preparing for us, a future infinitely greater than what we have seen up to now.


It’s not easy. I’m giving a possible scenario. But because so many people are finding so much difficulty coming their way, we need to see a pathway to redemption.


“Oh, storm-tossed, unconsoled one, behold, I shall lay your floor stones upon pearls and make your foundation of sapphires…. All your children will be students of Hashem and abundant will be your children’s peace.” (This week’s Haftarah)

 

May we see that beautiful and perfect world soon in our days! 


 
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WHY DON’T WE BELIEVE IT?


Now we are in the blessed days after Tisha B’Av. They are blessed simply because we have survived. I don’t mean only “survived” the Three Weeks, but we have survived all the events of the past thousands of years of Exile. That in itself is comforting. Hashem intends that we should live! 

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WITH DAWN, A CRY OF JOY!


“Nachamu, nachamu ami …comfort, comfort, My people, says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her time (of exile) has been fulfilled.” (Isaiah 40:1-2) 

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THE MIGHTY ONES OF ISRAEL


I think it behooves us to appreciate the world situation on the eve of the Fast Day of Tisha B’Av, (which begins this coming Monday evening). 

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