In last week’s column I mentioned the death of Moshe Orlansky.
Reb Moishe was my friend. I davened next to him at Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv for almost two decades. His livelihood was making doughnuts and muffins, but his life was Torah. “V’ani sfilosi … ” (Psalm 69:14), which, I believe, can be understood as “I am tefilla/prayer.” Reb Moishe was prayer. He could fill the entire Sh’or Yoshuv Yeshiva Study Hall with the sound of tefilla.
THE CANDY MAN
I don’t even know his name. I know that he survived the Holocaust. He An old man, he is bent over, a widower. He is alone, and yet he is not alone. He is not depressed. He gives out candy. You know about the candy man. He’s the one who gives out candy to the children in Shul. view
IN YOUR BLOOD SHALL YOU LIVE!
I have trouble praying at the Western Wall (Kosel). At the holiest place on earth one can feel very strongly the absence of the Holy Temple. On a recent visit, I had a powerful sense that the Wall itself was impenetrable, as if my prayers were bouncing off the massive stones in front of me. How could I pray through this barrier that seemed so impervious to the tears I wanted to shed?
EVERYTHING ELSE IS "GMG"
We have completed the epic holiday called Passover and are counting the days until Shavuos. This reflects our ancestors’ historic physical and spiritual march from Egypt to Mount Sinai, which in turn reflects the spiritual activity which should be going on at all times within the soul of a Jew, as we continuously work to free ourselves from our spiritual Egypt and deepen our attachment to the Master of the Universe.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
We stand before the Fateful Day, the Beginning of the Year, the First of the Yomim Tovim.
HIS FACE TURNED WHITE
This is a true story.
THE LURE OF EGYPT
Passover is approaching. We have to think about how the exodus from Egypt applies to us.
THE WORK OF OUR HANDS
The world is in such a mess! How can the Messiah emerge from this disaster? If you start to enumerate the problems, you will run out of ink and paper before you finish. “Rabbi Yochanan said: [the Messiah] Ben David will come only in a generation that is [either] entirely virtuous or entirely guilty” (Sanhedrin 98a). If you are at the bottom, what can you do?
PURIM AND FOOD
You never thought you would hear this from me!
I’m going to tell you about a diet.
THE DAY WE ACCEPTED THE ENTIRE TORAH
At Mount Sinai, the Jewish People “stood at the bottom of the mountain” (Exodus 19:17). “Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa said: [This] teaches that the Holy One Blessed is He, covered them with the mountain as [though it were an upturned] vat. And He said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, fine. But, if not, your burial will be there.’”
THEY SHALL MAKE A SANCTUARY FOR ME
“V’asu li mikdash … they shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them…” (Exodus 25:8). We don’t have it any more! We don’t have the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Altar. We don’t have the Tabernacle and the Courtyard.
THE SLAVE'S EAR: FURTHER THOUGHTS
Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Slave’s Ear,” in which I discussed the Jewish law pertaining to a Jewish slave who wishes to remain with his master after the seven-year period of servitude has elapsed.
UNDER THE ETERNAL CHUPAH
We have arrived at Mount Sinai, the dividing line in history. Until now we were engaged, but this is the chupah (wedding canopy). After this comes the incredible saga of the Jewish People’s eternal marriage with the Master of the Universe. It is the quintessential love story.
STANDING AT THE REED SEA
The events in these Torah portions are literally earth-shaking. “Kol Hashem al hamayim … the voice of G-d is upon the waters, the G-d of Glory thunders; G-d is upon vast waters….” (Psalm 29). We should have the events of the Exodus from Egypt constantly in mind because they are echoed in today’s world.
THE STONE IS FOR THE TEMPLE, NOT THE TUNNEL
Friday night during the Shabbos of the Torah portion Shmos I had a dream in which I saw huge slabs of white stone – perhaps thirty feet long or more – lying on the ground. I said to a man near me that G-d had told me he should start building the Holy Temple using those stones.
TOO BIG A JOB FOR AN ANGEL
In this week’s Torah portion, we are deep in Egypt, seeing first-hand how G-d extricated us from this fearsome exile. From this we learn how He will extricate us from our present exile. As the Chofetz Chaim said, “We can learn about the end of our [current] exile from what happened at the end of our exile in Egypt” (Quote from Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l).
In today’s Torah portion and in today’s world we have arrived in exile.
"TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN"
For those raised in a Torah environment, it is difficult to imagine the struggles of baalei teshuva. One of the most challenging areas is “end of life” issues.
FROM EGYPT TO ARAD
“Ani Yosef! Ha-od Avi chai?… I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?”
YOSEF AND CHANUKAH
Techias hamaisim must be a very important inyan. It is the subject of the second bracha in Shemoneh Esreh, which we say at least three times every day. Chazal emphasize that Hashem’s strength is demonstrated by the resurrection of the dead.
OUR LIVES DEPEND ON UNITY
The subject matter of this week’s Torah portion and the holiday of Chanukah coincide.
Vayeishev is the Torah portion of exile; Chanukah is the holiday of exile.
PAIN-FREE IN EXILE
My personal physician has a good sense of humor. The first time I met him, he told me, “If you wake up one morning and you don’t have a new pain, dial 911!” I thought this was just a good line, until I realized it's wisdom. Over the years, I have frequently awakened with new pains, often in limbs I didn’t know existed. I realize that one can actually bless G-d for all these pains, because they mean that you are alive!
THE LAND IS THIRSTING FOR WATER
“Jacob … took from the stones of the place, which he arranged around his head …” (Genesis 28:11) “because he was afraid of dangerous animals” (Rashi).
How does a row of stones protect a person from dangerous animals?
THE COVENANT OF THE FATHERS
“Baruch Ata Hashem - Blessed are You... our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob, the great, mighty and awesome G-d, the supreme G-d, Who bestows beneficial kindnesses and creates everything, Who recalls the kindnesses of the Patriarchs and brings a Redeemer to their children’s children for His Name’s sake, with love. O King, Helper, Savior, and Shield, Blessed are You, Shield of Abraham.”
KEDUSHA ON SUTPHIN BOULEVARD
“Yitzchak instituted the mincha prayer, as it is stated, ‘And Yitzchak went out to speak in the field toward evening.’ (Beraishis 24:63) ‘Speech’ [in this verse] means nothing other than prayer….” (Berachos 26b)
ABRAHAM'S PLAN FOR THE END OF HISTORY
As I said last week, it is astounding how relevant Biblical events are today. We can understand our own world only by reference to the words of Torah. The phrase “ma’ase avos siman l’bonim - the deeds of the fathers are a sign for the sons” is a signpost illuminating our pathway. Any other attempts to understand today’s world will lead us into darkness. As King David says, “You have preserved me from my descent to the pit” (Psalm 30).
THE MAN WHO DISCOVERED REALITY!
It is amazing how relevant Biblical events are today. The events surrounding the Garden of Eden and the Flood are totally relevant, beacons illuminating today’s dark world. And so, of course, are the events surrounding the life of Abraham. This Hero of the Ages refused to waste his life by adhering to mindless lifestyles and bestial behavior.
He thought about life! Yes, my friends, he thought! Thinking is an almost-lost, but essential art.
"YOU ARE BANDITS!"
Within the last few months, two great rabbis said exactly the same words to me: “Moshiach had better come soon, or else there will be no one around for him to come for.” Did they mean there will be no people around physically or spiritually? I am not going to speculate, but, whatever the meaning, these are frightening words!
STAY IN THE SUKKAH
“Achas shoalti … one thing I asked of G-d, that shall I seek: to dwell in the House of G-d all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of G-d and to contemplate in His Sanctuary” (Psalm 27).
In this world, are we really able to dwell in His Sanctuary? I believe the answer is “yes,” especially during this season. When we sit in the sukkah, we are enveloped by His Presence.
THE PROOF THAT OUR PRAYERS ARE NOT IN VAIN
“Shir hama’alos … Song of Ascents...When G-d will return the captivity of Tzion, we will be like dreamers” (Psalm 126).
One of our biggest problems during the Ten Days of Return may be that we have trouble believing G-d will grant us complete victory. We have trouble believing that our troubles can really become blessings, that our weaknesses can become strengths, that exile will become redemption.